India, on 27th March, launched an anti-satellite missile as a test for containing the threat of low-orbiting rogue satellites. The mission was a success, in that it was able to engage an orbiting target-satellite. “Mission Shakti” makes India the fourth nation to possess the anti-satellite capability.
The successful test of the new Anti-Satellite missile system marks India’s position as a legitimate space power. The missile is said to employ a “Kinetic Kill Vehicle to strike and shatter target satellites. The destruction of the “target” during the test has created debris along with its polar retrograde.
Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics says that 41 pieces of satellite debris remain in orbit. The concern raises largely due to a previous incident of space debris caused by anti-satellite missiles when China’s test resulted in the largest orbital debris cloud.
ISRO and DRDO argue that the test was conducted using various methodologies that would ensure that all space debris would disintegrate within 45 days. The Chief of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said the low-altitude testing was chosen keeping the eventuality of space debris in mind.
Experts like satellite tracker Marco Langbroek and McDowell suggest that the debris will take “at least a year or so” to completely disintegrate. They feel that the presence of this debris threatens other satellites and objects presently orbiting space. The latest analysis suggests that a few pieces “might not enter orbit until mid-2021”.
NASA is concerned about the destruction of Microsat_R satellite as it can be a possible threat to the astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS). The Russian defence ministry shares the same concerns. The US has further gone on the offensive and finds that the anti-satellite missile test as “unacceptable and incompatible with the future of human space flight.