The fourth country in the world to shatter and target a satellite in low-Earth orbit has become India. The state used a missile to destroy one of its own satellites. Not more than a week later, on Monday, the unilateral move has been condemned by Jim Bridenstine, the NASA Administrator.
He called the test unacceptable during a town hall meeting saying that the human space flight is not compatible with the intentional creation of orbital space debris fields. The likelihood of small debris hitting the International Space Station (ISS) has been increased by the Indian space test, according to a NASA assessment last week.
The expectation is that, eventually, the risk will come back to normal. An impact between the ISS and space debris can have catastrophic repercussions, and this is the reason why NASA is keen on tracking the trajectory of potentially dangerous pieces.
India destroyed a satellite, creating space debris that might pose a threat to the ISS
“What we’re tracking right now — objects big enough to track, we’re talking about 10 centimeters or bigger — about 60 pieces have been tracked,” said Bridenstine, referring to the fallout of the Indian space test. About 25 of those pieces have been catapulted by the anti-satellite missile test to locations above the ISS, from where, possibly, they would pass the International Space Station and gradually descend toward Earth.
The rest of those pieces has not been tracked, but they have been identified, so, without warning, they could collide with the ISS.
Last week, the anti-satellite missile test lasted for only three minutes but it was enough for one of the satellites of India to be shot down, this being a proof that the technology that would be needed for the country to participate in possible future confrontations in space has been acquired. However, the technology is not new, as China, for example, possesses such anti-satellite missiles since 2007.