The Indian government announced on March 27 that it has successfully fired a ground-based anti-satellite weapon against a satellite in low Earth orbit, a test that is likely to intensify concerns about space security and orbital debris.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the country’s military efficaciously demonstrated an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon in a test known as “Mission Shakti.” It was a ground-based missile – a version of an existing ballistic missile interceptor, which hit the satellite at an altitude of approximately 300 kilometers.
“It shows the remarkable dexterity of India’s outstanding scientists and the accomplishment of our space programme,” PM Modi said in a series of tweets announcing the test. PM Modi also made a televised proclamation, in Hindi, about the test.
While Indian government hails the event as an ambitious achievement, India’s Anti-satellite weapon test also represents an increasing fear toward space warfare and also heightens the risk that humanity could lose access to critical regions of the space around Earth.
According to a statement from India’s Ministry of External Affairs, the missile was initially launched from the Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam Island complex in the northeast part of India. The missile struck a pre-planned Indian satellite.
“The test was fully efficacious and achieved all parameters as per plans,” the ministry said. The threat that debris poses isn’t just limited to expensive satellites. Right now, six crew members are living on board at the International Space Station (ISS) roughly 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth which is almost about 65 miles (100 kilometers) higher than the 185 miles (300 kilometers) altitude of India’s now obliterated satellite, but there is nonetheless a chance some debris could reach higher orbits and threaten the space station.
The potential risk to the ISS and other satellites is only scratches on the surface but there are larger worries associated with destroying spacecraft, either intentionally or accidentally.
Any collision in space creates a cloud of debris, with each piece moving at about 17,500 mph (28,000 kilometers per hour).
That’s roughly the speed required to keep a satellite in low-Earth orbit and more than 10 times as fast as a bullet shot from a gun.
At such velocities, even a stray paint chip can disable a satellite. Jack Bacon, a scientist at NASA, told Wired in 2010 that a strike by a softball-sized sphere of aluminum would be akin to detonating 7 kilograms (15 pounds) of TNT explosives.
This is worrisome for a global society increasingly reliant on space-based infrastructure to make calls, get online, find the most efficient route home via GPS, and more.
The ultimate fear is a space-access nightmare called a “Kessler syndrome” event, named after Donald J. Kessler, who first described such an event in 1978 while he was a NASA astrophysicist. Kessler Syndrome is basically a scenario where the density of space debris in lower earth orbit is very high.
Keeping all that aside, let us hope that we will use all these technologies in the right way. Let us know what do you think about such projects with a quick comment.