As addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India on Wednesday March 27 2019, tested anti-satellite weapon and successfully destroyed a satellite in 3 minutes, thus becoming a Space Superpower. “India shot down a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite, which was a pre-determined target.”
“India has entered its name as an elite space power. An anti-satellite weapon ASAT successfully targeted a live satellite on a low earth orbit. It’s a matter of pride for all of us that it has been done by indigenously developed technology. I congratulate the scientists of DRDO,” he said.
With this, PM Modi said India has become the 4th nation in the world after US, Russia and China to have a satellite weapon that can take down enemy satellites.
What are Anti-satellite weapons (ASAT)
Anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) are space weapons designed to incapacitate or destroy satellites for strategic military purposes. Several nations possess operational ASAT systems, with others in development or design. Any state that manages to get the upper hand in this frontier can be expected to dominate the outcome of any war. A state with command over space-based assets can jam enemy satellites or destroy them.
ASAT development in India
- In a televised press briefing during the 97th Indian Science Congress in Thiruvananthapuram, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Director General Rupesh announced that India was developing the necessary technology that could be combined to produce a weapon to destroy enemy satellites in orbit.
- On February 10, 2010, DRDO Director-General and Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, VK Saraswat stated that India had “all the building blocks necessary” to integrate an anti-satellite weapon to neutralise hostile satellites in low earth and polar orbits.
- India is known to have been developing an exo-atmospheric kill vehicle that can be integrated with the missile to engage satellites.
- On March 27 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India tested its ASAT missile under Mission Shakti, destroying a pre-determined target of a defunct satellite.
Limitations of Anti-satellite weapons
- Although satellites have been successfully intercepted at low orbiting altitudes, the tracking of military satellites for a length of time would be less accurate than previous commercial or defective intercepts that did not employ any defensive measure like simple inclination changes.
- Depending on the level of tracking capabilities, the interceptor would have to pre-determine the point of impact while compensating for the satellite’s lateral movement and the time for the interceptor to climb and move.
- Liquid-fueled space launch vehicles are more time-consuming to launch and could be attacked on the ground before being able to launch in rapid succession.