U.S. tracking space debris from India’s ASAT test

Updated - March 28, 2019 10:41 pm IST

Published - March 28, 2019 08:17 am IST - Washington

Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) Interceptor missile being launched by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in an Anti-Satellite (A-SAT) missile test ‘Mission Shakti’ engaging an Indian orbiting target satellite in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in a ‘Hit to Kill’ mode from Abdul Kalam Island, Odisha, on Wednesday, March 27, 2019.

Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) Interceptor missile being launched by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in an Anti-Satellite (A-SAT) missile test ‘Mission Shakti’ engaging an Indian orbiting target satellite in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in a ‘Hit to Kill’ mode from Abdul Kalam Island, Odisha, on Wednesday, March 27, 2019.

The United States has reacted to Prime Minister Modi’s statement that India had successfully tested an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile in what he termed Mission Shakti.

“The State Department saw PM Modi’s statement that announced India’s anti-satellite test . As part of our strong strategic partnership with India, we will continue to pursue shared interests in space and scientific and technical cooperation, including collaboration on safety and security in space,” a State Department spokesperson said via email to The Hindu , in response to questions on the U.S. position on the ASAT test.

India was uniquely designated a ‘Major Defense Partner’ of the United States in 2016.

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.

The U.S. reaction also raised the issue of space debris .

“The issue of space debris is an important concern for the U.S. government. We took note of Indian government statements that the test was designed to address space debris issues,” the spokesperson said.

The U.S. is tracking over 250 pieces of debris from Mission Shakti. It will provide “close-approach notifications as required until the debris enters the Earth’s atmosphere,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Dave Eastburn said, according to the news agency Reuters.

“My message would be: We all live in space, let’s not make it a mess. Space should be a place where we can conduct business. Space is a place where people should have the freedom to operate,” Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told journalists in Florida, as per media reports.

The Indian government has said that there will be no space debris.

“The test was done in the lower atmosphere to ensure that there is no space debris. Whatever debris that is generated will decay and fall back onto the earth within weeks,” it said in a statement released on Wednesday.

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