Headline : Successful anti-satellite missile test puts India in elite club
- India successfully conducted an Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile test, named Mission Shakti, becoming the fourth country in the world to demonstrate the capability to shoot down satellites in orbit.
- Under Mission Shakti, India demonstrated the capability to destroy a satellite in the low earth orbit (LEO) using an anti-satellite missile.
- India became only the 4th country to conduct an Anti-Satellite missile test.
- 3 countries that have tested the anti-satellite missile capability so far include USA, Russia and China.
In focus: Mission Shakti: The A-SAT Missile Test
- The A-SAT missile under Mission Shakti targeted and destroyed a live satellite in the Low Earth Orbit at about 300 km above the surface.
- The missile was launched from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Island launch complex near Balasore in Odisha.
- The target chosen for testing the A-SAT was Microsat R.
- Microsat R was an imaging satellite placed in an orbit 274 km above the Earth surface.
- Microsat-R orbiting the LEO has an orbital velocity of 7.8km/s.
- Technology: ‘Hit to Kill’
- The anti- satellite test involved the ‘hit to kill’ missile technology.
- Under the ‘hit to kill’ technology, a missile is shot at the satellite in order to hit and kill the satellite.
- Kill vehicle technology
- The anti-satellite missile used was an advanced version of ‘Prithvi Defence Vehicle’ of India’s Ballistic Missile Defence system.
- This is because the target satellite was in the 300km orbit.
- The Prithvi Defence Vehicle is an interceptor missile designed to intercept targets in the exo-atmosphere at altitudes of 50-150km.
- The A-SAT missile was based on the exo-atmospheric kill vehicle technology.
- It includes
- A 3-stage interceptor missile
- 2-stage solid propellants
- A long range tracking radar
- Infra-red and radar frequency seekers to reach the target satellite and hit it
Note 1: 2-layered Ballistic Missile Defence System
- 1st layer
- The single stage solid rocket-propelled Advanced Air Defence (AAD) interceptor missile.
- The AAD interceptor missile is primarily designed to intercept enemy missiles in the endo-atmosphere at altitudes of 20-40 kilometers.
- 2nd layer
- Pradyumna Ballistic Missile Interceptor and Prithvi Defense Vehicle are designed to destroy missiles at exo-atmosphere.
Note 2: For higher orbits, the Agni-V-based ballistic interceptors would be used. (because of 5000km range)
In brief: A-SAT: Anti satellite technologies
- Satellites form an integral part of a country’s critical infrastructure.
- Intercepting satellites can halt various critical applications including navigation systems, communication networks, broadcasting, banking systems, surveillance etc.
What is A-SAT?
- Anti-satellite technology is a counter-space capability of a country to neutralize space-based assets of enemy country.
Types of A-SAT
- Missile-based A-SAT: A missile is used to hit and destroy satellite using
- Direct-ascent kinetic kill vehicle (Chinese A-SAT in 2007, India now, USA and Russia)
- Co-orbiting missile (Russia has this type)
- Co-orbital drones which approach the target satellite and deviate it from its orbit. (China, UK, Russia are working on this technology)
- High-energy lasers that blind the sensors of the satellites.
- Interception and jamming of signals from the satellites by sending more powerful radio signals.
History of A-SAT Missile Tests
- ASAT missile tests have been conducted by USA and Russia in the cold-war era.
- USA has the anti-satellite weapon since 1959 followed by Russia in 1960
- The cold-war witnessed the anti-satellite weaponry tests till early 1980s.
- China conducted A-SAT weaponry test in 2007. (800km orbit)
- Russia has recently shot down satellite using ASAT weaponry as lately as October, 2018.
Concerns with A-SAT weapons
- Militarization of space
- Proliferation of A-SAT weapons can have serious implication of militarization of space.
- Space debris
- A-SAT weapons have serious implication on addition of ‘space debris’ which could affect the functioning of existing satellites.
- Space debris cannot be controlled in terms of its destination and impact.
- Trigger for ground-based wars
- Anti-satellite weapons can disrupt critical communications of a country and thus may trigger other ground-based warfare.
- May close the door for Universe exploration
- In case the A-SAT based wars amplify to a level where countries destroy satellites like Hubble space Telescope, it may close the doors for exploration of universe that has so much to offer to curiosity of human mind.
Treaties governing Outer Space
Outer Space Treaty 1967
- According to this treaty, outer space shall be used only for peaceful purposes.
- It prohibits countries from placing into orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction.
- It requires that celestial bodies shall be used by all parties exclusively for peaceful purposes and no weapon can be stationed on them.
- However, Outer Space Treaty by itself does not prevent arms race in space.
- India is a party to Outer Space Treaty
UN Resolution: PAROS to TCBMs: An unfinished task
- The Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) is a UN resolution that advocates for a ban on the weaponization of space.
- It was conceived of during the Cold-war era.
- The PAROS resolution acknowledges the limitations of Outer Space Treaty in preventing of an arms race in outer space.
- However, US opposition has thwarted treaty negotiations in the UN General Assembly.
TCBMs and PPWT
- Since 2005, the UNGA has adopted annual resolutions on “Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space Activities.”
- China and Russia in 2008 submitted the following treaties to reiterate the importance of a weapon-free outer space.
- Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (PPWT)
- Treaty on threat or use of force against Outer Space Objects.