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Russian ASAT test and its implications

  • IAS NEXT, Lucknow
  • 19, Nov 2021
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Russia has carried out an Direct-Ascent Anti-Satellite (DA-ASAT) test by shooting down an old satellite which has created a huge debris in the low earth orbit, according to the U.S. space command.

What is the test and its significance?

  • According to the US space command, Russia has conducted the DA-ASAT test to shoot down an old Soviet Tselina-D SIGINT satellite, Kosmos-1408, which was launched in 1982 and had been dead for a long time. 
  • The test so far has generated more than 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris and will likely generate hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris.
  • While Russia has previously tested ASAT weapons, the DA-ASAT is more advanced and similar to the ones the US has in its inventory.
  • ASAT weapon gives the capability to destroy satellites in orbit disrupting the communications and surveillance capabilities of adversaries.
  • Only a handful of countries have successfully demonstrated ASAT capability – China, India, Russia and U.S.

What is the assessment and the reaction? 

  • US condemned Russia’s reckless test of a direct-ascent anti-satellite missile against its own satellite, creating space debris that risks astronauts’ lives, the integrity of the International Space Station, and the interests of all nations.
  • The debris created by Russia’s DA-ASAT will continue to pose a threat to activities in outer space for years to come, putting satellites and space missions at risk, as well as forcing more collision avoidance maneuvers.
  • Initial assessment by USSPACECOM is that the debris will remain in orbit for years and potentially for decades, posing a significant risk to the crew on the International Space Station and other human spaceflight activities, as well as multiple countries’ satellites.
  • US also stated that Space activities underpin our way of life and such kind of behaviour is being considered as irresponsible
  • US attacked Russia by stating that Russia is developing and deploying capabilities to actively deny access to and use of space by the United States and its allies and partners.

What is the threat to the International Space Station? 

  • Due to the debris generated by the “destructive” Russian test, ISS astronauts and cosmonauts undertook emergency procedures for safety, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. There are currently seven astronauts on the ISS.
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator stated that “With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS, but also their own cosmonauts”.
  • Their actions are reckless and dangerous, threatening as well the Chinese space station and the taikonauts on board.
  • However, Russian Astronaut Anton Shkaplerov currently on the ISS tweeted “Friends, everything is regular with us! We continue to work according to the program.”