U.S. tracking debris from ASAT test
29, Mar 2019
The United States has reacted to Prime Minister’s statement that India had successfully tested an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile in what he termed Mission Shakti.
As part of the strong strategic partnership with India, the US will continue to pursue shared interests in space and scientific and technical cooperation, including collaboration on safety and security in space- US in response to questions on the U.S. position on the ASAT test.
The U.S. is one of the now four (including India) countries that has demonstrated an ability to strike down an orbiting satellite. U.S. President Donald Trump has been pushing for the U.S. to have a ‘Space Force’ and has directed the administration to enhance America’s space-war fighting capabilities. This has been driven in part by the long-standing American concern that China and Russia were developing their ASAT systems, putting American GPS-based technology at risk.
In an incremental advance, India successfully conducted an Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile test, named Mission Shakti, becoming the fourth country in the world to demonstrate the capability to shoot down satellites in orbit. So far, only the United States, Russia and China have this prowess.
About ASAT missile:
- The satellite downed by the ASAT missile was Microsat-R, an imaging satellite which was launched into orbit on January 24, 2019 using a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
- India has built the broad capabilities and building blocks to develop ASAT missiles for some time as part of its Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) programme.
- A BMD interceptor missile successfully engaged an Indian orbiting target satellite in LEO in a ‘hit to kill’ mode.
- The ASAT missile was a modified exo-atmospheric interceptor missile of the BMD. A LEO of 300 km was chosen to “minimise” debris and it also won’t last more than a few months.
- Anti-satellite weapons provide the capability to shoot down enemy satellites in orbit thereby disrupting critical communications and surveillance capabilities. ASAT missiles also act as a space deterrent in dissuading adversaries from targeting the country’s satellite network.
What is Space Debris?
- The term ‘space debris’ does not have a unanimously accepted legal definition. It is generally used to describe the collection of unwanted objects in the earth’s orbit which is either man-made or natural
- Natural Debris consists of natural bodies revolving around the sun, like, meteors and asteroids.
- Artificial Debris consists of man-made objects (usually non functional) which revolves around the Earth. (Therefore it is most commonly referred as Orbital Debris)
- According to the Report of Second U.N. Conference on Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space 1982, space debris consists of dead satellites, spent rocket motors, nuts and bolts etc.