OnMarch 27th2019,India joined the elite club of nationswho posses ananti-satellite technology.The technology mission (Mission Shakti) was led byDefence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)to strengthen India’s overall security. The capability of attacking a satellite in an orbit closer to Earth shall give a tactical edge to the country.
ASAT arespace weaponsdesigned toincapacitate or destroy satellites for strategic military purposes.
Space weapons can attack space weapons in orbit (ASAT), attack targets on the earth from space or disable missiles travelling through space.
ASAT missiles are of two types – Kinetic or Non-Kinetic.
Kinetic A-SATphysically strikes an object and destroys it like ballistic missile.
Non-Kinetic A-SATuse non-physical means to disable/destroy a space object like frequency jamming.
The theoretical range of A-SAT weapons is limited to 20,000km.
The capabilities of ASAT have been demonstrated byUnited States, Russia, China and India.
Israel is said to be on the path of developing its ASAT technology.
Intercept, jam communication or military satellites of enemy countries.
Access critical information about troop movements or incoming missiles.
Launch cyber-attacks on space systems and direct laser-based weapons.
ASAT weapons technology is complicated involving highly reliable surface-to-air ballistic missiles and long-range radar and tracking systems.
Previous ASAT missions:
1959:USAperforms first anti-satellite test. An air-launched ballistic missile was fired from B-47 bomber at Explorer VI satellite.
1963:Soviet Unionacquires ASAT technology.
1985:Americatested AGM-135, launched from a F-15 fighter jet and destroyed its own satellite Solwind P 78-1.
2007:Chinaenters anti-satellite arena. It destroyed old weather satellite in a high, polar orbit.
2008:USAcarried out Operation Burnt Frost to destroy a defunct spy satellite.
27thMarch 2019:Indiabecame the fourth nation to acquire ASAT technology.
Mission Shakti isa joint programme of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
As part of the mission, an anti-satellite (A-SAT) weapon was launched and targeted an Indian satellite which had been decommissioned. Mission Shakti was carried out from DRDO’s testing range in Odisha’s Balasore.
Significance: India has for the first time tested and successfully demonstrated its capability to intercept a satellite and shoot it down in space based on complete indigenous technology.
India is only the 4th country to acquire such a specialised and modern capability, and Entire effort isindigenous. Till now, only the US, Russia and China had the capability to hit a live target in space.
A large number of crucial applications are now satellite-based. These include navigation systems, communication networks, broadcasting, banking systems, stock markets, weather forecasting, disaster management, land and ocean mapping and monitoring tools, and military applications.
The ability tobring down an enemy’s missile, therefore, gives a country the capability tocripple critical infrastructure of the other country, rendering their weapons useless. India’s space programme is a critical backbone of India’s security, economic and social infrastructure. Mission Shakti has ensured that India secures a place in the space power league by shooting down the satellite which was orbiting at an altitude of 300 km.
Problem of Space Debris
Space debris, also calledspace junk, artificial material that is orbitingEarthbut is no longer functional. Anything launched into the spaceremains in space, almost forever, unless it is specificallybrought down or slowly disintegrateover decades or centuries.
With countries launchingmore and more satellites, each one of them being astrategic or commercial asset, avoiding collisions could become a challenge in the future.
According to the European Space Agency, there were an estimated7,50,000 objects of size one cm or above in space.
A satellite that is destroyed by a missiledisintegrates into small pieces, and adds to the space debris.
Thethreat from the space debrisis that it could collide with the operational satellites and render them dysfunctional. According to the ESA, space debris is one of theprincipal threats to satellites.
The successful development of ASAT technology hasimproved India’s space power. It has demonstrated itscapability to intercept any satellite. So, it has created adeterrence mechanismfor its space satellites which are doing various military and civilian services.