Has India’s ASAT Missile Test Put the International Space Station at Risk?


The International Space Station (ISS) could be under threat due to India’s ASAT (anti-satellite) missile test that created space debris. On 27th March 2019, India blew up one of its own live satellites with an ASAT missile. This means that an object moving at 25,200 km/hr at an altitude of 300km was shot down. Only three other countries in the world (the USA, Russia, and China) have accomplished this.

Why did India do this?

India has a very active space programme. Through its 103 spacecraft missions, satellites for communication, navigation, earth observation and disaster management have been sent into space. Imagine a world without telephones, the internet or GPS! How will airplanes communicate without the radio? It’s unthinkable. To protect these invaluable satellites, India made the missile. PM Modi tweeted, after the successful missile launch, “India stands tall as a space power!”

The test was carried out in the lower atmosphere to ensure little or no debris because it would all burn up and fall back right to the earth. But NASA reported that 400 space debris were generated and 60 of them have been tracked down. 24 pieces of debris have been found above the ISS. This could put the astronauts at ISS in danger! The debris has increased the risk of collision with the ISS by 44%, said Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator.

Why should we concern ourselves with space junk?

Things move very fast in space. What a tiny bullet does to a human, debris can do to a satellite. A destroyed satellite will create more debris and a chain reaction will start, resulting in a whole orbit full of debris. We don’t have the ability to clean up the debris that is present so the least we can do is not add to it.

Vaijayanti is a writer, a nature enthusiast and an amateur wildlife photographer. She hopes her virtual pen and lens can make the world a better place.

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