Anti-Satellite Missile Test (ASAT) - Mission SHAKTI

Why is it in News?

India became the 4th country in the world to have the Anti-satellite Missile System.

What is ASAT Missile Test?

  • It is the technological capability to hit and destroy satellites in space through missiles launched from the ground. India on 27th March 2019 hit the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellite Microsat-R which was placed at 300 km from Earth.

But why does a Country need to have this Capability to destroy a Satellite in the Space?

  • Satellites are extremely critical infrastructures of any country these days. 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.
  • Destroying a satellite would render these applications useless. It can cripple enemy infrastructure, and bring it down on knees, without causing any threat to human lives.

Is India the only one to have this Capability?

  • No, India is the 4th country after US, Russia and China to have this capability.

Why did India hit the Satellite placed in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) only?

  • The major problem with the destruction of satellite is that, once it gets destroyed in space it creates space debris; when a satellite in LEO is destroyed it creates less space debris and these debris are likely to fall back in the Earth’s atmosphere within a span of few weeks.

Why is Space Debris a big issue for the Scientists?

The problem with the space debris is that it collides with the operational satellites and makes them dysfunctional. It is similar to garbage that humans generate on the Earth.

Is this test by India not the Violation of Outer Space Treaty of 1967?

  • Outer Space Treaty prohibits the placement of weapons of ‘mass destruction’ (not ordinary weapons) in the outer space. India has neither placed the weapon of mass destruction nor deployed any weapons, so the criticism by few countries is not tenable at all.

Note: India is signatory to the Outer Space Treaty and has ratified this in 1982.

Why are some Experts Criticizing the ASAT Missile Test?

Some experts are of the opinion that destroying the satellite of enemy country in the war is a very traditional approach. In the present scenario there are better ways by which damage can be caused to the enemy country for example:-

  • Technologies have been developed to jam the communication from the satellites by interfering with its radio signals. This can be attempted during the uplink or the downlink.
  • The other option is the possible use of ground-based lasers to ‘dazzle’ the sensors of the satellites and make them at least ‘partially blind’ so that they are unable to work efficiently.

Some Associated Terms:

Low Earth Orbit (LEO)

  • A Low Earth Orbit is an Earth-centered orbit with an altitude of 2,000 km or less.
  • Most of the manmade objects in space are in LEO.

Kessler Syndrome

  • The Kessler syndrome, proposed by the NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler in 1978, is a scenario in which the density of objects in low Earth orbit is high enough that collisions between objects could cause a cascade where each collision generates space debris that increases the likelihood of further collisions.

Source: IE