We continue to collaborate with India on security and safety in space

Olive Hawkins
April 4, 2019

Meanwhile NASA has been heavily critical of the weapons test and claims it has created 400 pieces of orbital debris.

There are estimated to be about 900,000 pieces of debris larger than a marble in orbit around the Earth, according to statistical models cited by the European Space Agency.

The latest fragments add to the growing problem of space debris orbiting the Earth.

The US military tracks objects in space to predict the collision risk for the International Space Station (ISS) and for satellites.

A day after India successfully carried out its ASAT test, acting U.S. defence secretary Patrick Shanahan warned that the event could create a "mess" in space but said Washington was still studying the impact. Troublingly, some of these pieces have reportedly entered into orbits equal to or higher than the International Space Station, potentially putting the base at risk.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed its success as "an unprecedented achievement" that makes India "a space power".

The Foreign Office further said such test should be a matter of grave concern for the worldwide community not only in terms of generation of space debris but also because of its ramifications for long term sustainability of peaceful space activities.

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While India has joined an elite club of countries with ASAT weapons, the development has irked agencies and governments around the world.

US Strategic Command's Joint Force Space Component Command (JFSCC) had said earlier that 250 pieces of debris associated with an Indian ASAT launch last Wednesday were being actively tracked.

At the state department's daily briefing across town from the NASA headquarters where India's ASAT test was subjecting to a tongue-lashing, deputy spokesman Robert Palladino took a more measured approach, choosing to validate the Indian government statements that the test was created to address space debris issues. Even the slowest object in Low Earth Orbit moves at speeds approaching 7.8 kilometres per second, or 17,500 miles per hour, so an impact with the space station could be catastrophic. With that, India became only the fourth country to test an Anti-Satellite (ASAT) weapon - used to attack enemy satellites or intercepting ballistic missiles - after the US, China, and Russian Federation.

Such activities are placed at risk by these kinds of events, he said, and "when one country does it, then other countries feel like they have to do it as well", he said.

Luckily, all six astronauts on the ISS are safe for now, but that doesn't mean NASA is overreacting to the news.

Mr Bridenstine said that it was true that this would eventually happen. And in 1985, the United States also used one of its own satellites for target practice. "Commercial crew flight tests, along with the additional Soyuz opportunities, help us transition with greater flexibility to our next-generation commercial systems under the Commercial Crew Program".

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