PHOTO BY: Ministry of Defense, Government of India
Indian Rocket Launch

Washington, DC – The United States on Tuesday refrained from criticizing India’s anti-satellite missile test and its debris fallout.

On the the issue of space debris, Robert Palladino, the Deputy State Department spokesperson said, “that is an important concern for the United States.” Answering a question raised by IAT, at the state department briefing, Palladino told journalists: “I would say that we took note of the Indian Government’s statements that the test was designed to address space debris issues.”

In a detailed posting on its website, Indian Federal External Affairs Ministry answered “Frequently Asked Questions on Mission Shakti, India’s Anti-Satellite Missile test conducted on 27 March, 2019”

“The test was done in the lower atmosphere to ensure that there is no space debris. Whatever debris that is generated will decay and fall back onto the earth within weeks,” the posting said in an attempt to allay fears of debris from its “Mission Shakti” test.

Negative Reactions

Earlier the US acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan cautioned that the US was still studying the effects. Speaking to journalists, Shanahan said, “My message would be: we all live in space, let’s not make it a mess. Space should be a place where we can conduct business. Space is a place where people should have the freedom to operate.”

India’s anti-satellite missile test created at least 400 pieces of orbital debris, the head of NASA said — placing the International Space Station (ISS) and its astronauts at risk.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said that just 60 pieces of debris were large enough to track. Of those, 24 went above the apogee of the ISS, the point of the space station’s orbit farthest from the Earth.

“That is a terrible, terrible thing to create an event that sends debris at an apogee that goes above the International Space Station,” Bridenstine said in a live-streamed NASA town hall meeting. “That kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight.”

He added: “It is not acceptable for us to allow people to create orbital debris fields that put at risk our people.”

Other Issues

On the issues raised in the international circles on India’s test, Palladino said, “We have a strong strategic partnership with India, and we will continue to pursue shared interests in space, in scientific and technical cooperation with India, and that includes collaboration on safety and security in space.”

The anti-Satellite test made India the fourth country to have carried out an ASAT test. China carried out a similar test in 2007 and the international community had reacted with alarm then also.

Domestic Fallout

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is facing a tough parliamentary election within weeks, announced the ASAT test in an unexpected national address, saying India had “established itself as a global space power.”

Modi faced domestic reaction as well, for the opposition parties accused him of using the test as an electoral stunt. According to local media reports, the Indian Election Commission has announced it will investigate whether Modi breached election rules, saying it had received complaints.

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