NASA Alarmed at Indian Space Missile Test

Pablo Tucker
April 4, 2019

A day after NASA branded India's anti-satellite missile (ASAT) test as a "terrible thing", the US State Department said it was an important concern and that it had taken note of government's statements that the test was created to address space debris issues.

NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, has expressed his concern in the days after India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully carried out the country's first anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon test against an out-of-service Indian satellite orbiting the Earth at 300 kilometres altitude on Wednesday, 27 March 2019, at 11.16 am Indian Time. The Nasa chief said "a lot" of the debris created by that test remained in orbit.

"What we are tracking right now, objects big enough to track-we're talking about 10 cm (4 inches) or bigger-about 60 pieces have been tracked", he was quoted as saying.

But even though the mission was carried out in low orbit, according to NASA it still jeopardises the safety of the ISS and those on board.

But 24 of the pieces were going above the ISS, said Bridenstine.

According to, which reported Bridenstine's livestreamed town hall talk on April 1, he had said describing the Indian test: "That is a bad, awful thing, to create an event that sends debris in an apogee that goes above the International Space Station..."

"It's unacceptable and NASA needs to be very clear about what its impact to us is". It is tracking 23,000 objects larger than 10cm.

"As such, this ASAT test should be a matter of grave concern for the global community not only in terms of generation of space debris but also because of its ramifications for long term sustainability of peaceful space activities". The US military is in total tracking about 10,000 pieces of space debris, almost a third of which is said to have been created by the Chinese test. But the risk will dissipate over time as much of the debris will burn up as it enters the atmosphere. An official statement from the Government of India said that the test was at a level low enough to ensure that any debris generated would fall back to Earth within weeks. Precedent, however, suggests it could take much longer than that; in 2008, the USA destroyed a defunct satellite at an altitude of 250 kilometres (150 miles), and it took about 18 months for all the material to fall back to Earth, according to SpaceflightNow. Only three other countries-the US, Russia and China-have ASAT capabilities.

Debris from China's 2007 anti-satellite missile launch is still floating around in space. In real life, the cascade would occur over decades rather than suddenly, but each additional uncharted fragment makes further collisions more likely. This debris now threatens the ISS, he said, calling India's actions "not compatible with the future of human spaceflight".

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