India declines comment on Nasa’s criticism of test

Updated Apr 04 2019

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Although India had claimed that debris generated by the missile test would decay and fall back to earth, Nasa said it could threaten the International Space Station. ─ AP/File
Although India had claimed that debris generated by the missile test would decay and fall back to earth, Nasa said it could threaten the International Space Station. ─ AP/File

NEW DELHI: India on Wednesday declined to comment on a statement by a US space official that India’s recent test of an anti-satellite weapon created debris that could threaten the International Space Station.

India’s Defence Ministry spokesman Col. Aman Anand said there was no official response to Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine’s statement at a town hall event in Washington on Monday. Bridenstine said in shooting down one of its own satellites with a rocket last week, India had left debris high enough in orbit to pose a risk to the International Space Station.

India’s External Affairs Ministry in a statement after the March 27 test said that whatever debris generated would decay and fall back to Earth within weeks as the test was in the lower atmosphere.

Bridenstine said Nasa had identified 400 pieces of the debris and tracked 60 of them. “We know that 24 of these are going above the apogee of International Space Station. That’s a terrible, terrible thing to create,” he said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the test last week and said the destruction of the satellite demonstrated India’s capacity as a “space power” alongside the United States, Russia and China.

Although India claimed that debris generated by test would decay and fall to earth, Nasa said it could threaten the ISS.

“The amount of debris which the United States itself has created in space is gigantic as compared to a few pieces of debris from the Indian test. In orbit, we have 2,000 functional satellites. Eight hundred of them belong to the United States. India has only 48 functional satellites in the orbit,” he said.

In Washington, the vice commander of US Air Force Space Command, Lt. Gen. David Thompson, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week that the Air Force detected about 270 objects in the debris field created when India destroyed the satellite and the number was likely to increase.

He said the Air Force will inform satellite operators if any of those objects become a threat to satellites in orbit.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2019