India Joins Anti-Satellite Game

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India Joins Anti-Satellite Game

Indian rocket that would've been launched in an attempt to destroy the target satellite.

Indian rocket that would've been launched in an attempt to destroy the target satellite.

Indian rocket that would've been launched in an attempt to destroy the target satellite.

Indian rocket that would've been launched in an attempt to destroy the target satellite.

Sal Donofrio

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India may be a considered a third-world nation with 1 billion citizens. But in recent years they have become a bigger player on the world stage economically and technologically. The development of the Indian space program has been rapid over the past 5 years. Most recently, they joined a select group of nations that have the capability to target and destroy orbiting satellites.

But the most concern has come from NASA, with chief Jim Bridenstine claiming that the satellites destruction has created a debris field that caused potentially collisions to increase by 44%. As many as 60 pieces of debris are at least 4 inches in diameter with 24 of which now orbit the Earth above the International Space Station. However, the Indian ambassador to the United States states that the low orbit test will result in all debris falling back to Earth and burning up in the atmosphere, adding that India is not interested in starting or joining a space arms race. In 2014, India joined a small group of nations with satellites in orbit around Mars.

Anti-satellite weapons are a arguably new concept. While the first American attempts at anti-satellite weapons was in the late 1950’s, the world’s first successful interception was conducted by the Soviet Union in February 1970. To date, only Russia, China, the United States and India posses anti-satellite weaponry.

ASAT weapons made by China may endanger American surveillance of North Korea, as the extensive network of spy satellites operated by various military departments and branches are vital to understanding their ballistic missile capability as well their ability to produce enriched uranium and plutonium used to create nuclear weapons.

While destroying satellites in orbit during a long and protracted war would hinder surveillance and intelligence capabilities. However, ASAT’s are limited in their ability to track and destroy satellites that are being remotely guided and their orbits changed. As for now, anti-satellite weaponry doesn’t pose an immediate threat to the general safety of the United States.