This successful space mission has made India the fourth country to acquire such a specialised and modern capability, till now held only with the three members of UN Security Council – viz US, Russia and China.
By Ratan Shrivastava
India test-fired a sophisticated anti-satellite missile with “Mission Shakti” and destroyed a live out of use Indian satellite flying in its low-Earth orbit at 300 kilometers in 3 minutes, on 27th March 27, 2019, successfully demonstrating its capability based on complete indigenous technology.
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This successful space mission has made India the fourth country to acquire such a specialised and modern capability, till now held only with the three members of UN Security Council – viz US, Russia and China. India is opposed to the militarization of Space and this capability will not be used against any particular nation – but is purely India’s defence initiative for its security without breaching any existing International treaties on Space.
For India, as a space faring nation, to develop the capability of ASAT through “Mission Shakti” is a strategic weapon, which if needed can be used to intercept and interdict, deny and destroy the ability of the enemy country to use their space based systems, to gather space based intelligence, space based military application against India. India has successfully demonstrated its capability based on complete indigenous technology.
The military potential of satellites are several – such as surveillance, communications, navigation, early warning and can provide for continuous intelligence and monitoring adding the vital fourth dimension as a credible deterrent and a force multiplier, in addition to the Land, Sea and Air, in case of a conflict, specially, when long drawn out wars may give way to shorter and intense conflicts in the future.
This capability will deny any adversary, the use of satellites and other space-crafts, as a platform for any offensive operations against India by targeting the adversary country’s surveillance, communication and military satellites. It will also safeguard and defend India’s considerable space assets – and deny the enemy nation to use their space assets against India.
ASATs can render the enemy navigation and communication systems useless as a resource and platform to use their air and missile assets against India. ASAT operations are technically challenging and highly complex , as there is a requirement for a precise hit at very high speed on an orbiting target.
The complexity of the mission can be understood by the fact that India hit a satellite orbiting at 300 kilometers above the earth, travelling at high speed of 29000 kilometers per hour – to find and locate the correct satellite, in a maze of space objects field and debris , and successfully destroying it in 3 minutes is nothing short of a splendid and spectacular precision displayed by Indian scientists of ISRO and DRDO.
India being a space faring nation with more than 100 space-crafts, missions and space based assets and a rapidly growing space program including its successful Mars and Moon missions and the proposed Human Space Flight program need safeguarding. In addition, India’s vital infrastructure and connectivity programs such as Digital India, Bharat Net, DTH via Doordarshan, health and primary medicare, meteorological, communications, navigation(NAVIC and GAGAN) and surveillance need to be protected with a credible and forceful deterrent.
With the successful completion of “Mission Shakti” and with the “No First Placement” principle, India is now comfortably placed as a space super power matched only by US, Russia and China.
The UNODA (United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs) in its October 2018 declaration started the process of a new international treaty for banning militarisation of space, in the tentative time frame 2018-2020,with pressure from China and Russia. The PAROS Treaty (Prevention of Arms Race in Space) being discussed at UN Conference of Disarmament, for placing objects or carrying any type of weapon into orbit or using force against space objects, would have made it difficult for India to carry out any ASAT mission due to compliance related issues.
Once the treaty is done and if India not demonstrated the ASAT capability, it could be at a disadvantageous position and would be difficult to enter into the privileged club of nations with ASAT capability, which India could ill afford.
India has had a robust missile defence program and it is a signatory to all the major treaties with reference to the Outer Space. India has implemented a number of Transparency and Confidence Building Measures, which include, the registering space objects with the UN register, Pre – Launch notifications, compliance with the UN Space Mitigation Guidelines, participation in Inter Agency Space Debris Coordination in collaboration with other space agencies, with regard to space debris management, undertaking Space Object Proximity Awareness and Collision Avoidance Analysis and is a participant to the UN Committee on the peaceful use of Space. The test does not violate any existing international treaties and is not directed at any country.
(The author is Advisor, Space Division, FICCI. Views expressed are his own.)