India conducted its first anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test on Wednesday 27th March 2019. The successful anti-satellite missile test now places India alongside Russia, China and US. These countries have already shown their anti-satellite capability after carrying out a number of tests. The ASAT missile test destroyed a low earth satellite in space. This is after the missile covered close to 300km within three minutes of its launch before hitting the target, a live satellite which was flying in a low earth orbit.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the test now termed as “Mission Shakti” a success in a specially televised announcement. Scientists consider the ASAT test to be more advanced than the submarine-launched missile systems which was the last big breakthrough in the history of India’s missile technology. However, the test is no way contrary to India’s declared position against the weaponisation of space.
As per India’s understanding, the ASAT missile test does not seem to violate any treaty obligation or international law. This is because the test was much less harmful than the Chinese ASAT test which left a large-scale scattering of debris in space. The debris left after China’s ASAT test was a threat to other satellites in space. To make sure that there was no space debris left behind, India’s scientists performed the test in the lower atmosphere.
Prime Minister Modi has described the test as being very critical when it comes to protecting the interests of India in space. The missile system which was under development since 2016 has now given the country new strength. Mission Shakti was performed from the APJ Abdul Kalam island in Odisha, making use of a three-stage missile together with two solid rocket boosters.The ASAT test has now provided the much needed credible detterence against any threat to space based assets from countries with long range missiles.