Prelims level : Science Technology Mains level : GS III – Developments and their applications and effects in everyday the achievements of Indians in Science & technology.
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Why in news:

  • India carried an anti-satellite test using an interceptor missile to neutralise a target satellite in a Low Earth Orbit at an altitude of around 300km.India is the 4th country to acquire this ability after US, RUSSIA/USSR, CHINA.

About ASAT:

  • An anti-satellite weapon or ASAT is anything that destroys or physically damages a satellite.
  • The launch “Mission Shakti” likely struck an Indian satellite in low Earth orbit, turning the object into debris.
  • ASATs can be used to intercept and jam communication or military satellites of enemy countries in the time of war and stop them from communicating with their soldiers.
  • The range of an ASAT is limited and depends on where it is launched from. Satellites above the range of 20,000 kilometres are out of range. The US and Russia have the capabilities of launching an ASAT from the ship, land and space, while India, presently, has used a land installation.

Low earth orbit:

  • A low Earth orbit (LEO) is an orbit around Earth with an altitude above Earth’s surface of 2,000      kilometers    . Objects below       approximately     160 kilometers (99 mi) will experience very rapid orbital decay and altitude loss.

Crowded space:

  • since the sputnik was launched in 1957, more than 8000 satellites/manmade orbiting objects have been launched, of which 5000 remain in orbit; more than half are non-functional .US accounts for more than 800 of these, followed by china (280), Russia (150). India has an estimated 50 satellites.

Patchy International control:

  • In 2008, Russia and China had proposed a draft to kick off negotiations on the Treaty of Prevention no Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and of the treat or use of force against outer space objects. It was rejected by the west.
  • The European union, mindful of US allergy to any negotiations on this issue, began to develop a international code of conduct based on transparency and confidence building measures.
  • The UN general assembly has called for a declaration of political commitment by all countries that they shall not be the first to place weapons in space.

Way ahead:

  • while countries have developed and tested ASAT’S, they are not known to have stockpiled
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