How space became another battleground: Know about US, Russia and China celestial arms race

New Delhi, News Nation Bureau | Updated : 27 March 2019, 02:11 PM
Mission Shakti: The prime minister did not say who owned the satellite but added that India does not breach any international laws or treaties (Representational Image)
Mission Shakti: The prime minister did not say who owned the satellite but added that India does not breach any international laws or treaties (Representational Image)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday announced that India had demonstrated anti-satellite missile capability by shooting down a live satellite, describing it as a rare achievement that puts the country in an exclusive club of space super powers. "India is now a major space power. In less than three minutes, a made-in-India anti-satellite missile shot down a satellite in the LEO (Low-Earth Object) satellite." "India has achieved a big feat today... this time in space sciences," PM added. Mission Shakti, which was led by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, was aimed at strengthening India's overall security, he said.

He said the action was not directed against any country and the satellite was a pre-determined target orbiting at an altitude of 300 km. The prime minister did not say who owned the satellite but added that India does not breach any international laws or treaties.

Anti-satellite missiles (ASAT)- US

In July, 1982, President Reagan called for measured response to the Soviet military space threat in order to protect U.S. and Allied security interests. The two aspects of the Soviet space program of greatest concern in 1982, remain today -- their ability to destroy U.S. satellites and to use satellites for targeting of U.S. and Allied air, land and sea forces. On 14 February 2008, it was reported that the United States Navy had been instructed to fire an RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 ABM weapon at it, to act as an anti-satellite weapon. The U.S. ASAT program is focused explicitly on those Soviet satellites which most threaten U.S. and Allied terres- trial interests in times of crisis or limited war.

Anti-satellite missiles (ASAT)- Russia

The successful flight test of Russia’s direct ascent anti-satellite missile, known as PL-19 Nudol, took place November 18, 2015, according to defence officials familiar with reports of the test.  In May 2016, Russia tested the Nudol for the second time. It was launched from the Plesetsk cosmodrome test launch facility, located 500 miles (800 km) north of Moscow Three more launches were reportedly held in December 2016, in March 26, 2018 and in December 23, 2018 - the latter two from a TEL. A new type of ASAT missile was seen carried by a MiG-31 in September 2018.

Anti-satellite missiles (ASAT)- China

In early 2007, China successfully conducted a test of its first ASAT (anti-satellite) weapon sending shock waves across the globe and seriously jolting the Indian defence establishment into thinking on strategies to counter China's destabilizing agenda. In 2006, the U.S. government released a report claiming that China had tagged some U.S. observation satellites with a high-power laser system. Although no major damage was done to the satellites, it later emerged that the laser was not directed at the optical lenses, which could have rendered the satellites useless. In 2008, when the Shenzhou-07 was in orbit, the Taikonauts on the mission released a BX-1 micro satellite. The BX-1 flew within the 1000-mile secure radius of the International Space Station (the ISS is programmed to change trajectory and orbit should this happen). Although no harm was done, this demonstrated China’s ability to deploy micro satellites with ASAT capabilities.

Anti-satellite missiles (ASAT)- India

India entered the elite club of global space power to have its own satellite weapon. In a highly-anticipated address to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced about ultra-secretive ‘Mission Shakti’, which lasted for just three minutes. “A while ago, India achieved a historic feat. India today registered itself as a space power. Till now, 3 countries of the world- America, Russia and China had this achievement. India is the 4th country to have achieved this feat. Mission Shakti was led by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, was aimed at strengthening India’s overall security, PM Modi said.

First Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2019 02:01 PM
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