Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday addressed the nation to declare the success of Mission Shakti, India’s test of an anti-satellite weapon from the Odisha’s APJ Abdul Kalam Island (earlier, known as Wheeler Island) launch complex. With this technological mission conducted by the DRDO, India becomes the fourth country, after US, China and Russia, with the capability to destroy a low-orbit satellite.
An MEA release said “one of India’s existing satellites operating in lower orbit” was used in the mission and the test was “fully successful and achieved all parameters as per plans”. It said the test required an extremely high degree of precision and technical capability and success demonstrated India’s capability to interdict and intercept a satellite in outer space based on complete indigenous technology.
The team of scientists were able to accomplish this feat within a span of 3 minutes and its significance lies in the fact that India has been successfully able to demonstrate its capability to interdict and intercept a satellite in outer space based on complete indigenous technology. 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.
DRDO used its Ballistic Missile Defence interceptor which is part of the ongoing ballistic missile defence programme along with the technology where India has developed capability, thus making it an appropriate choice to ensure achieving the objectives set out in the mission.
Anti-satellite weapons (ASATs) are created to destroy or incapacitate satellites. There are many countries which have this capability, but only four countries — including India — have demonstrated their ASAT capabilities. The US first tested ASAT technology in 1958, the USSR followed in 1964 and China in 2007. In 2015, Russia tested its PL-19 Nudol missile and followed it up with other tests.
After China’s test in 2007, the first after US tested in 1985, many countries criticised the move and underlines the “serious consequences of engaging in the militarisation of space”. China sought to allay the fears by saying it would not “participate in any kind of arms race in outer space”. China had earlier publicly advocated a ban on space weapons.
India has so far undertaken 102 spacecraft missions consisting of communication satellites, earth observation satellites, experimental satellites, navigation satellites, apart from satellites meant for scientific research and exploration, academic studies and other small satellites. The March 27 test was done to verify that India has the capability to safeguard its space assets as it is the responsibility of the Government of India to defend the country’s interests in outer space, an MEA release said.
The test was timed according to the degree of confidence that the country could build, to ensure success in the mission and with no intention of entering into an arms race in the outer space, the release said. India has always maintained that space must be used for peaceful purposes and that outer space is the common heritage of humankind. The test does not violate any International law or treaty and also supported UNGA resolution 69/32 on No First Placement of Weapons on Outer Space, the MEA underlined.
“A-SAT missile will give new strength to India’s space prog. I assure the international community that our capability won’t be used against anyone but is purely India’s defence initiative for its security. We are against arms raised in space. This test won’t breach any international law or treaties,” PM Modi said during his address.
The DRDO, in February 2010, had announced that India was developing necessary technology to produce a weapon to destroy enemy satellites in space.
There has been international debate on how to clamp down on tests of anti-satellite missiles. In 2013, a UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Outer Space TCBMs signed off on a report that recommended many transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs). The major concern was over debris and they proposed that tests leaving behind “long-lived debris should be avoided”. If debris cannot be avoided, other potentially affected states need to be kept in loop.