Will Mission Shakti Make Foreign Companies Boycott Indian Space Launchers?
PM Narendra Modi, who revealed the test, designated as Mission Shakti, on Wednesday, hailed its success as "an unprecedented achievement" that makes India "a space power."
Representative Image (Image: Nagarjuna Dwarkanath/ Twitter)
While ISRO and DRDO scientists have said that the debris field caused by Mission Shakti, which saw India successfully destroy a satellite located in Lower Earth Orbit (LEO) with a missile, will burn up in 45 days, responses to the experiment have been met with much wariness and some hostility from international space companies.
PM Narendra Modi, who revealed the test, designated as Mission Shakti, on Wednesday, hailed its success as "an unprecedented achievement" that makes India "a space power." However, a recent simulation of the experiment suggests that the destruction of the satellite could have created an unprecedented 6500 pieces of space debris.
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.
Meanwhile, companies were more critical of the move, with several commercial space ventures firing at India's actions. Planet, a major commercial satellite network based out of San Francisco slammed the move on its Twitter account, writing, "While Planet enjoys a great working partnership with agencies of India's government — like ISRO — we categorically condemn the anti-satellite missile intercept recently conducted by India's defense department. Space should be used for peaceful purposes, and destroying satellites on orbit severely threatens the long-term stability of the space environment for all space operators. Planet urges all space-capable nations to respect our orbital commons."
Planet’s response to India’s testing of an anti-satellite missile. pic.twitter.com/bZuuIYtCFB— Planet (@planetlabs) March 27, 2019
Brian Weeden, technical advisor to the Secure World Foundation, also critiqued the anti-satellite missile test in a long Twitter thread.
The thread goes on to expound the nature of international space treaties, the burgeoning space economy, and the responsibility of space-faring nations and private organizations, with Weeden at one point wondering if companies will refrain from using India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) system, which is seen as a relatively reasonable method of delivering satellite payloads into space, which generates significant revenues for ISRO.
Weeden also tweeted, "More tests like this risk creating #spacedebris that could impact commercial business models for space, plus many of these #newspace companies feel strongly about social responsibility."
/21 So I wonder if any commercial space companies are willing to take a stand on this and boycott the PSLV to send a message to India? Corporate social responsibility anyone? /fin— brianweeden (@brianweeden) March 27, 2019
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