The space debris created by India’s anti-satellite test (ASAT) does not pose a risk to any space assets including the International Space Station, DRDO chief G Satish Reddy said here on Saturday.
While every piece of the space junk created by the March 27 test would eventually be eliminated from the space in the natural process, those having dimension of 10 cm and above would cease to be a danger to any other space objects 10 days after the test – a period that ends on Saturday.
“As per our simulations, there are no risks to the ISS. The satellite that was destroyed was at an orbit of 283 km whereas the ISS was parked at an orbit 120 km above the target satellite. All debris will be destroyed in the natural orbital decay process in 45 days. After 10 days, which ends today, there would not be any threat from the debris created by ASAT test,” Reddy said at a briefing on Mission Shakti here.
The assertion from the Defence Research and Development Organisation chief comes days after NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stated India’s ASAT was a “terrible thing” as it created 400 pieces of orbital debris and the risk of debris colliding with the ISS increased by 44% since the Indian test.
Reddy said the test was designed in such a fashion so that the kill vehicle hit the target satellite in a transverse direction on the same plane rather than hitting the target from below. The second option was rejected precisely to minimize the risks from the fragmented debris.
Deputy National Security Advisor Pankaj Saran said five US government agencies and individuals – State Department, Pentagon, Acting Secretary of Defence, US Air Force Space Command and NASA Administrators - issued statements on India’s maiden anti-satellite test. “We will go by the State Department statement, which is very measured,” he said.
Saran said USA, Russia, France and China are the only nations that released statements on Mission Shakti, besides Pakistan. None were critical of India.
Asked whether more ASAT tests were required, Reddy said DRDO had the capability of hitting satellites in an orbit of 1,000 km, but no further tests were required for satellites in low earth orbit.
The DRDO director general said initial discussions on ASAT started in 2014 and the approval from the Prime Minister came in 2016. This runs contrary to former DRDO chief V K Saraswat’s claims that DRDO had the ASAT capability in 2012, which was informally conveyed to then National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Memon. A formal proposal, however, was never put forward.