Mission Shakti – 27 March 2019, India successfully launched her first ASAT. An interceptor was launched at around 05:40 UTC from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur in Odisha and hit its target Microsat-R after 168 seconds. The test satellite that was struck was at a 300-kilometre altitude in low earth orbit (LEO).
The operation was named Mission Shakti. This successfully tested missile system was developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). DRDO is a research wing of the Indian defence services. Prior to this test, there were only 3 nations with anti- satellite capabilities. India has stated that this capability is a deterrent and is not directed against any nation.
Across the globe, talks about space policy, politics and the militarization of space stirred up within hours of the test. There were speculation about creation of dangerous space debris.
India is the world’s largest democracy and the voting is due to begin on April 11, and the final ballot cast on 19 May. While some applauded Narendra Modi’s announcement, many others perceived it as a political move to bolster poll numbers ahead of India’s upcoming election.
Laura Grego, a senior scientist in the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists said, “India’s test comes against a backdrop of a languishing international effort to ensure space remains a peaceful and secure environment”.
While Upasana Dasgupta, a researcher at the Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University, was concerned that India could be held liable at an international level if another country’s spacecraft is damaged by the shrapnel.
The statement from the Ministry of External Affairs of India said, “The test was done in the lower atmosphere to ensure that there is no space debris”. It also claimed that the debris that is generated will decay and fall back onto the earth within weeks.
There are various Technics in which an anti-satellite weapon may work. In the case of Mission Shakti, India used a kinetic-kill technique. In it, the missile simply puts itself in the path of an orbiting satellite. The satellite which moves at an approx. speed of 29000 km/hr.
The kinetic energy of the impact of collision is much higher to any explosion. Thus there is no need for any explosive to be carried.
The Mission Shakti brings about the following key points:
- The mission was a complete “made in India”. It displays the mettle of our indigenous technical strength.
- This is a major breakthrough since the nuclear tests in 1998. Hence, it has put India in the elite club of counties possessing ASAT technology alongside USA, Russia and China.
- Coming in when the situations across the border are fragile, this is a great addition to our military arsenal.
While we are concerned about the militarization of space and debris from the test, we cannot turn a blind eye towards the skill and quality of our scientists and defence forces. The DRDO and ISRO have undoubtedly been doing great jobs and keeping the tricolor fly high up.