Awareness in space.
India’s Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile
What to study?
For Prelims: Features of ASAT missile, Low Earth Orbit.
For Mains: Need, significance and concerns associated with ASAT missile, the issue of space debris.
Why in News? Four months after India successfully tested its anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities, experts tracking the debris created by the event have reported that 40% of it has still not decayed. India had claimed after the test that the debris would decay within 45 days after the event.
What is it?
Mission Shakti is a joint programme of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
As part of the mission, an anti-satellite (A-SAT) weapon was launched and targeted an Indian satellite which had been decommissioned. Mission Shakti was carried out from DRDO’s testing range in Odisha’s Balasore.
India is only the 4th country to acquire such a specialised and modern capability, and Entire effort is indigenous. Till now, only the US, Russia and China had the capability to hit a live target in space.
Why do we need such capabilities?
- India has a long standing and rapidly growing space programme. It has expanded rapidly in the last five years. The Mangalyaan Mission to Mars was successfully launched. Thereafter, the government has sanctioned the Gaganyaan Mission which will take Indians to outer space.
- India has undertaken more than 100 spacecraft missions consisting of communication satellites, earth observation satellites, experimental satellites, navigation satellites, apart from satellites meant for scientific research and exploration, academic studies and other small satellites. India’s space programme is a critical backbone of India’s security, economic and social infrastructure.
- The test was done to verify that India has the capability to safeguard our space assets. It is the Government of India’s responsibility to defend the country’s interests in outer space.
Outer space has become an “arena of rivalry between major powers.” At the same time, there was common concern on space debris. Satellites today have to avoid almost 6,00,000 debris of over 1cm travelling at speed faster than a bullet.
As space gets increasingly crowded, there is need to regulate space traffic on the lines of air traffic or railways.
What is space debris?
Space junk is an ever-growing problem with more than 7,500 tonnes of redundant hardware now thought to be circling the Earth. Ranging from old rocket bodies and defunct spacecraft through to screws and even flecks of paint – this material poses a collision hazard to operational missions.
The rising population of space debris increases the potential danger to all space vehicles, but especially to the International Space Station (ISS), space shuttles, satellites and other spacecraft.
Technologies that can tackle the problem in future are:
- Moving an object out of the way by altering its orbit is one method of diverting a potential crash, but the sheer amount of debris requires constant observation and prediction – by any means necessary.
- Nasa’s Space Debris Sensororbits the Earth on the International Space Station. The sensor was attached to the outside of the space station’s European Columbus module in December 2017. It will detect millimetre-sized pieces of debris for at least two years, providing information on whatever hits it such as size, density, velocity, orbit and will determine whether the impacting object is from space or a man-made piece of space debris.
- REMOVEdebris, satellite contain two cubesats that will release simulated space debris so that it can then demonstrate several ways of retrieving them.
- Deorbit mission: There are two emerging technologies being developed under what’s known as the e.Deorbit mission to grasp the wayward space junk, or to catch it.
- Other technologies include moving objects with a powerful laser beam. It is important to start doing that soon, current scientific estimates predict that without active debris removal, certain orbits will become unusable over the coming decades.
Arms race in outer space should not be encouraged. India has always maintained that space must be used only for peaceful purposes. It is against the weaponisation of Outer Space and supports international efforts to reinforce the safety and security of space based assets.
India believes that Outer space is the common heritage of humankind and it is the responsibility of all space-faring nations to preserve and promote the benefits flowing from advances made in space technology and its applications for all.
Sources: the hindu.