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Mission Shakti: DRDO refutes claims of danger to ISS from ASAT test, says debris decaying fast

FE Online

There is no possibility of debris from the Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test conducted by India on March 27 hitting the International Space Station (ISS), the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Chairman G Satheesh Reddy said on Saturday. Addressing the media, the DRDO chief clarified that the debris from the test carried out could not hit the ISS, the plan was to ensure that the debris does not damage the ISS when simulations were carried out.

He also said that that Hit to kill was achieved against live satellite with accuracy of less than 10 cm. This is on par with the best reported worldwide.

According to him, the risk analysis simulation which is based on internationally accepted software as well as our own software made in India indicated that there was no threat to the International Space Station.

Reddy added that the interceptor has the capability to take out a satellite at 1000 Kms altitude but we kept it down so that debris decays fast. Typically the low debris decays in ten days and all debris that has been created will dissolve within 45 days. According to the chairman with the Anti-Satellite (ASAT) it was feasible to target multiple enemy satellites.

Responding to questions, the DRDO chief explained that there was a possibility of the debris going up. However, it has been ten days since the launch and the debris is decaying and not going up.

The mission has been designed such that the debris decays and there is no threat to the ISS. It is a complex design to see that the interceptor has hit low.

Responding to the recent observations coming from the NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine about the possible threat to the ISS, Reddy said when India conducted the test, the space station was over French Guyana. Moreover, the debris is decaying fast and some part of the debris created has decayed.

Earlier this week, Bridenstine while addressing his team in the US had said that the A-SAT test carried out by India had created 69 pieces of orbital debris posing risk to the ISS.

In his opening statement, the DRDO chief said that on March 27, India carried out a successful demonstration of Mission Shakti placing India on par with the elite club of three countries- US, Russia and China which possess anti-satellite capability.

Technically, the Kill Vehicle had the capability to neutralise the target satellites in the entire Low Earth Orbit (LEO) region. However, India had chosen a much lower orbit of around 300 km for capability demonstration with the purpose of avoiding threat of debris to the global space assets.

The test carried was technology demonstrator and there is no need for any more tests. It is ground based deterrence and it is by design that we kept it low, though we can go up to 1000 Kms altitude.

This technology can render the enemy navigation and communication systems useless as a resource and platform to use their air and missile assets.

To a question if India had carried out a failed test on Feb 12, Reddy clarified that DRDO carried out a successful test of a Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) in which the target was electronic.

Last month, an online Tokyo based magazine `The Diplomat, had claimed that India had conducted on Feb 12 an A-SAT test which had failed.

DRDO also shared an official video on India’s March 27 A-SAT weapon test, including footage of the terminal kill phase. Watch it here:

What is BMD?

It is an indigenously developed missile capable of destroying enemy weapons at high altitude. It includes Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) missile which has the capability to take out incoming missiles at a range of about 80 km in altitude and an Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile for altitudes of 15-25 km.

However, in a test carried out in 2017, a new interceptor missile Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV), was tested which has the capability to intercept a missile at an altitude of 100 km.

About ASAT

– A three-stage interceptor with two stage solid fuel propellant was used

– The accuracy has to be very high and satellite is moving at 10 km per second

– All critical technologies for the Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test were developed indigenously

– About 90 per cent is local, some 200 scientists worked around the clock and some 2,000 components were sourced from 50 private industry

– Out of these there were more than 50 women who were working on the project

– Discussion started in 2014 and development started in 2016.

– DRDO says the interceptor used for ASAT test has the capability to hit satellites at a distance of 1000 kms but they restricted it to 300 kms for space safety and to avoid debris in higher altitudes

– DRDO officials held a separate briefing for senior scientists, technocrats, diplomats, strategic experts and top brass from armed forces (retired and serving)

– After ASAT, the DRDO plans to work on developing new technologies. Multiple technological aspects are being developed

– China has done ASAT tests at some 800 km altitude