Days after India carried out the anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test as part of Mission Shakti, Jim Bridenstine, the head of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), branded India's destruction of one of its satellites a "terrible thing" on Monday, April 1.
Bridenstine was addressing employees of NASA after India shot down a low-orbiting satellite in a weapon test to register itself to become an elite space superpower. The only three other members of space super league are the United States, Russia and China. India became the fourth country to join the club.
Bridenstine said that India's ASAT test created 400 pieces of orbital debris and led to a new threat for astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Bridenstine continued to say that this type of risk to humans in space, and low Earth orbit operations, was just not acceptable.
"Not all of the pieces were big enough to track. What we are tracking right now, objects big enough to track - we're talking about 10 centimetres or bigger - about 60 pieces have been tracked," Bridenstine said. Addressing the employees at the town hall meeting, Bridenstine said, "That is a terrible, terrible thing, to create an event that sends debris in an apogee that goes above the ISS. That kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight." His speech was also live-streamed on NASA TV.
"It's unacceptable and NASA needs to be very clear about what its impact to us is." Bridenstine said that NASA, along with the Combined Space Operations Center (part of US Strategic Command), had estimated that the risk to the ISS of small-debris impact had risen by 44 percent over a period of 10 days. "The good thing is, it's low enough in Earth orbit that over time this will all dissipate," Bridenstine said — whereas much of the debris from a 2007 Chinese anti-satellite test is still in orbit.
What is Mission Shakti -ASAT?
The Anti-satellite weapon (ASAT), which destroyed a live satellite on Low Earth Orbit (LEO), is made by the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO). ASAT are space weapons designed to disable or destroy satellites for strategic military purposes. Testing this missile today, India showed its military might in space as it became the 4th country to become a part of the elite space superpower club.
Generally, almost all military satellites orbit up to 2,000 km above the earth's surface in LEO. As per reports, no country has used ASAT system in warfare till now but multiple countries have shot down their own (defunct) satellites to demonstrate their ASAT capabilities in a show of force.