After ASAT test, concern over space debris

After the successful anti-satellite missile test by India, concerns are being raised from some quarters, including the United States and the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), over creation of space debris.

The United States on Thursday said it will continue to pursue its shared interests with India in space and technical cooperation, but expressed concern over the issue of space debris.

"The issue of space debris is an important concern for the U.S government. We took note of Indian government statements that the test was designed to address space debris issues," a State Department spokesperson said.

After the missile test on Wednesday, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi had sought to assuage such concerns stating that the test was done in the lower atmosphere to ensure there is no space debris.

Incidentally, the United States was the first country to test ASAT.

In September 1959, a High Virgo missile was launched by the US from B-58 aircraft targeting an Explorer satellite.

However, it was unsuccessful, according to a paper presented by Anatoly Zak at the UNIDIR.

A month later, a Bold Orion missile launched from a B-47 aircraft at an 11-kilometer altitude passed within four kilometers from the Explorer-6 satellite at an altitude of 251 kilometres.

Further as latest as 2008, during Operation Burnt Frost, the US destroyed its own satellite, USA-193, with an SM-3 interceptor creating 174 pieces of trackable debris, plus non-trackable shards.

In 2007, China destroyed its FengYun 1C weather satellite with an SC-19 missile, leaving behind space debris consisting of 3,280 pieces of trackable debris, as well as up to 32,000 pieces that are non-trackable.

The UNIDIR too raised concern over the space debris.

"Testing anti-satellite weapons in space can create damaging debris. Guidelines on testing these systems can prevent collateral damage and the escalation of tensions in outer space," the UNIDIR tweeted with a video on the subject.

Matthias Maurer, a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut, said shooting down a satellite and voluntarily creating space debris is not a sign of being a responsible space power.

"Shooting down a satellite to prove you're a space power only shows that you're not. No responsible space power contributes to creating voluntarily space debris! Space belongs to all mankind. Let's use it for peaceful purposes and for the benefit of the people. @esa @dlr," Maurer tweeted.