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Mission Shakti May Have Created 6500 Pieces of Space Debris According to Simulation

PM Narendra Modi, who revealed the test, designated as Mission Shakti, last week, hailed its success as "an unprecedented achievement" that makes India "a space power." However, with great power comes great responsibility, and various international agencies have decried the move as irresponsible, even as ISRO scientists and Indian government agencies sought to allay fears.

Shantanu David | News18.com

Updated:April 2, 2019, 9:39 AM IST
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Mission Shakti May Have Created 6500 Pieces of Space Debris According to Simulation
Artists impression of space debris exaggerated as compared to the size of earth. (AP)

India has come under fire for firing a missile into space and destroying a satellite in a move meant to demonstrate its anti-satellite (A-SAT) weapons capability, which would make it the fourth nation after the US, Russia, and China, confirmed to have such technology.

PM Narendra Modi, who revealed the test, designated as Mission Shakti, last week, hailed its success as "an unprecedented achievement" that makes India "a space power." However, with great power comes great responsibility, and various international agencies have decried the move as irresponsible, even as ISRO scientists and Indian government agencies sought to allay fears.

G. Satheesh Reddy, the chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), told Reuters that a low-altitude military satellite had been picked for the test, in order to reduce the amount of debris left in space. “That’s why we did it at lower altitude, it will vanish in no time,” he told Reuters, adding, “The debris is moving right now. How much debris, we are trying to work out, but our calculations are it should be dying down within 45 days.”

Reuters also reported that the U.S. military’s Strategic Command was tracking more than 250 pieces of debris created by Mission Shakti, and it would issue “close-approach notifications as required until the debris enters the Earth’s atmosphere,” as stated by Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Dave Eastburn.

Well, as per a simulation by a software engineering company called Analytical Graphics Inc. (which, according to its website, "visualizes objects in space and time with unprecedented accuracy") a debris field of 6500 pieces was created by the destruction of the satellite.

And the thing is, while firing an anti-satellite missile and bringing down an unoffending orbital object vaguely makes for good optics, it definitely makes for bad physics. The amount of space litter orbiting the planet is literally running out of space to orbit.

The US and Russia have both tested similar technology in the 1980s, though the former ceased its anti-satellite tests in 1985, citing concerns over the creation of more space debris. Meanwhile, China conducted its own first successful anti-satellite test in 2007, which led to condemnation from other world powers, especially after NASA claimed that the Chinese experiment had created a record 3000 pieces of space debris.

If Mission Shakti has in fact created 6500 pieces, I guess it really is India First.

To read more about the dangers of space debris, click here.

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