India’s A-SAT Test Debris Still A Threat To Other Spacecraft

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In March this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that India is a major space power as a low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite was shot down with an A-SAT (anti-satellite missile). Back then, little was known that it would cause an environmental catastrophe.

India’s A-SAT Test Debris Still A Threat To Other Spacecraft

 

Four months after the deployment of India's Mission Shakti, The Verge reports that dozens of pieces of debris are still circulating in the orbit. The debris from the cataclysmic event is said to pose a small but potential threat to spacecraft that might pass by. What's worth knowing is that space trackers believe that some of the debris might stay in orbit for a year before hitting the Earth.

The Issue With Space Debris

On March 27, India shot down a test satellite launched in January with a ground-based missile and demonstrated its ability to remove a spacecraft in Earth's orbit. Well, it is not an easy feat to destroy a satellite in the orbit as these are relatively small and move at thousands of miles per hour. And, hitting it with a missile requires high levels of precision and comes with a cost.

India's test called the "Mission Shakti" destroyed the satellite in Earth's orbit into several pieces of debris. The US Air Force has tracked over 50 pieces of debris floating in space moving around the Earth at a high-speed. If the debris collides with satellites at such high-speeds, then there can be potential damage to the spacecraft making the same inoperable.

Notably, the 18th Space Control Squadron of US Air Force has tracked over 22,000 pieces of space debris around in Earth's orbit and these add to the existing number. And, this might create pieces of debris that are tiny to track.

India did attempt to minimize the effect of breaking the satellite by using a low-orbit one just 186 miles above Earth. And, most debris created by the cataclysmic event was pulled down to Earth quickly and burned in the planet's atmosphere. Back then, it was said that the debris will vanish in 45 days.

 

Even the US Air Force acknowledges that most debris is gone. However, many have condemned India's A-SAT test citing the possible impact to spacecraft in orbit. NASA's administrator Jim Bridenstine stated that it is a terrible thing to send debris into space.

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