Headline : A-SAT tech gives India diplomatic bargaining power Editorial 28th Mar’19 LiveMint
Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile test:
- India has successfully conducted an Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile test.
- Conducting the test under Mission Shakti, India demonstrated the capability to destroy a satellite in the low earth orbit (LEO) at about 300 km above the earth’s surface, using an anti-satellite missile.
- The Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has demonstrated that we have the capability that only a few (US, Russia and China) among the best have.
- The A-SAT technology is a combination of two technologies in the missile field:
- A long-range missile capability which has been demonstrated by India many times.
- The ballistic missile defence capability, meaning the ability to intercept a missile with another missile. This has also been demonstrated many times by India.
- Integrating these two technologies, the A-SAT system has been created.
Made possible due to the political will of the government:
- Over the last ten years, major building blocks were under development.
- However, decisions like anti-satellite tests are strategic in nature, and they cannot be taken by the scientists.
- They have to be taken by the government with strong political will, as there is fear of backlash from international powers.
- The union government took the decision about two years ago, and after that, DRDO has been able to build the necessary technology for interception of a satellite in lower orbit.
Demonstration of technological abilities:
- With this test, India has reached the pinnacle of missile technology to intercept a satellite that is orbiting at about 7-8 kilometres per second in a lower orbit with the precision of less than one millisecond.
- It consists of a very agile kill vehicle with infrared seeker, excellent command control and communications network and long-range radar systems on ground, all working in unison in an automated manner to enable this interception.
Deterrence against attacks on India’s space assets:
- Satellites form an integral part of a country’s critical infrastructure, with critical applications including navigation systems, communication networks, broadcasting, banking systems, surveillance etc.
- Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile capability gives India the strength and sends the message of deterrence against anyone messing with our space assets.
- On land, sea, and air, India had all the capabilities in addition to a nuclear deterrent. The new successful missile test adds deterrence in space. If tomorrow there is a war in space, this gives us the defence preparedness.
Defence against long range missiles:
- If we can intercept a satellite, it means we can intercept any object approaching us this fast, like the intermediate-range ballistic missiles and Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
- We can engage these weapons at altitudes of 300 kilometres above ground.
Protects India against any grouping excluding India from conducting such tests:
- Historically, five nuclear-weapon states (NWS)—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States, had decided that they can have the nuclear weapons, but others like India cannot. So they made it very very difficult for India to build nuclear weapons.
- In the case of space, there is no such rule mechanism so far.
- But the only countries that had Anti-Satellite Missile capabilities were the US, Russia and China, and there was a possibility that they come together and say that only they can have this capability (like in the case of nuclear weapons).
- With India successfully conducting this test, India ensured itself a role in the future in the drafting of international law on prevention of an arms race in the space.
Adds to India’s national power:
- With this test, India became only the fourth country in the world to demonstrate the capability to shoot down satellites in orbit.
- It strengthens India’s position as a major space power with proven space technology.
- The test has increased India’s bargaining power on the diplomatic front as well.
- Space technologies are continuously evolving at a fast rate.
- In the near future, we could see development of more such space technologies and Mission Shakti paves the way for demonstrations of those capabilities.
- There are more options, in terms of anti-satellite weapons, which could be explored. For instance, jamming and laser anti-satellite weapons will be really important.
GS Paper II: Security Issues