India declines comment on NASA's anti-satellite criticism

Katie Ramirez
April 4, 2019

"This [anti-satellite weapon] test should be a matter of grave concern for the worldwide community, not only in terms of generation of space debris but also because of its ramifications for long-term sustainability of peaceful space activities", the Pakistani foreign ministry statement released on Tuesday said. India's demonstration was conducted at 300 kilometers, so the debris will likely be out of orbit in months.

Pakistan has expressed deep concern after India shot down a low-orbiting satellite in a missile test last week in its bid to prove it was among the world's advanced space powers.

NASA today confirmed that the first uncrewed test flight of Boeing's Starliner space taxi to the International Space Station would be delayed until at least August, and also said the first crewed flight would be extended into a long-duration mission.

NASA has since notified that due to India's ASAT test, the risk of small debris impact to the space station increased by 44 per cent over the period of 10 days. "That kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight".

Prof Roddam Narasimha, Indian aerospace scientist and fluid dynamicist who was Director of the Bengaluru-based National Aerospace Laboratories, downplayed the threat to the ISS, saying: "The altitude at which India conducted the test was below that of the ISS".

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"Pakistan has noted with deep concern the assessment of relevant organisations and global experts on the threats resulting from space debris generated by the recently conducted Anti-Satellite weapon (ASAT) test by India", a statement by the Foreign Office said. In February, the space agency also began exploring the possibility of buying additional Soyuz rides to the space station through September, 2020, as it waits for Starliner and SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft to begin operational service.

"Whatever debris that is generated will decay and fall back onto the earth within weeks". But probability of that, I think, is low...the good thing is that it is low enough and over time this will all dissipate.

Such activities are placed at risk by these kinds of events, he said, and "when one country does it, then other countries feel like they have to do it as well", he said. That said, Bridenstine assured the town hall audience that the six people now on board the ISS aren't in any immediate danger.

Both SpaceX and Boeing are participating in NASA's Commercial Crew Program, which aims to bring astronaut launches back to United States soil. While it's entirely legal for a nation to shoot down one of its own satellites, the display does raise questions about the goal of such risky endeavours.

Laura Grego from the Union of Concerned Scientists said the almost 2,000 satellites now in orbit are put at risk by such tests.

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