ISS Astronauts at Risk After India Blows Up a Satellite

Christopher Davidson
April 5, 2019

As Engadget reports, on March 27 India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi confirmed a missile test named "Mission Shatki" has successfully destroyed a satellite.

"NASA and Boeing have agreed to extend the duration of the company's first crewed flight test to the International Space Station after completing an in-depth technical assessment of the CST-100 Starliner systems", NASA says in a statement.

Interestingly, Bridenstine himself said after his town hall talk on April 1, which was live-streamed by NASA TV when he raised these concerns - as quoted by space.com - "The good thing is (about India's A-SAT mission), it's low enough in Earth orbit that over time this (the space debris) will all dissipate".

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said: "That is a awful, bad thing to create an event that sends debris at an apogee that goes above the International Space Station". There are no direct repercussions at the moment, but India's image of a peaceful nation trying to make scientific progress in space has taken a hit.

"As such, this ASAT test should be a matter of grave concern for the worldwide community not only in terms of generation of space debris but also because of its ramifications for long term sustainability of peaceful space activities". The satellite itself was in low orbit, but the blast pushed many pieces of debris into and above the orbit of the ISS. The 2007 test is estimated to have created about 25 percent of today's debris larger than 10 centimeters. The debris, they said, will fall to earth, but will burn in the planet's atmosphere.

"Destroying satellites orbiting in altitude bands that are heavily used for both military and civil satellites also can have ripple effects, producing unsafe clouds of debris that could stay in orbit for decades or centuries, disabling or destroying any satellites they collide with", said Grego in a statement.

It added: "India has no intention of entering into an arms race in outer space".

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The task of tracking potentially unsafe debris is mostly left to NASA, which has struggled to catch up with the growing problem.

Pakistan has warned that other countries may now conduct such tests while reiterating that it remains a strong proponent of the non-militarisation of outer space. Now, thanks to a hilariously bad decision by India, there's even more of it.

Some have suggested constructing smaller satellites that could orbit at lower altitudes and escape the potentially deadly debris cloud above.

Indian rival Pakistan issued a stern warning to India following last week's test, with the Foreign Ministry writing in a statement: "Every nation has the responsibility to avoid actions which can lead to the militarization of this arena".

Astronomer Jonathan McDowell from the prestigious Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics had said India acted in a less irresponsible manner than the Chinese in doing the test.

Such activities are placed at risk by these kinds of events, he said, and "when one country does it, then other countries feel like they have to do it as well", he said.

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