The head of NASA on Tuesday, 2 April, termed India’s recent destruction of one of its satellites under Mission Shakti a “terrible thing” and claimed that it had created 400 pieces of orbital debris and has put astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in jeopardy.
While addressing employees of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator, said, “That is a terrible, terrible thing to create an event that sends debris and an apogee that goes above the international space station. That kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight that we need to see have happen.”
His remark has come five days after India shot down a low-orbiting satellite in a missile test to prove it was among the world’s advanced space powers.
Bridenstine explained that not all of the pieces were big enough to track and added, “What we are tracking right now, objects big enough to track – we’re talking about 10 centimetres or bigger – about 60 pieces have been tracked.”
India test-fired an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile on March 27 under Mission Shakti. The targeted satellite was destroyed at a relatively low altitude of 300 kilometres, well below the ISS and most satellites in orbit.
Taking note of that, Bridenstine expressed concern that by India’s test the risk of collision with the ISS has increased by 44 per cent over 10 days. However, the risk will dissipate over time as much of the debris will burn up as it enters the atmosphere, he added.
He also said that the US military tracks objects in space to predict the collision risk for the ISS and for satellites.