The US Department of Defence, commonly known as the Pentagon, defended India for conducting the Mission Shakti A-SAT test. Recently, NASA had criticised the country for launching pieces of debris into space that flew close to the International Space Station (ISS).
The Pentagon told the Senate Armed Services Committee that India only conducted the A-SAT test because it was “concerned about threats” from outer space.
“The first lesson from the Indian A-SAT test is just the simple question of why did they do that. And the answer should be, I think to all the committee looking at it, that they did that because they are concerned about threats to their nation from space,” said US Strategic Commander General John Hyten to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
General Hyten added that India has the right to defend itself if it feels the need to do so.
The Pentagon also said that the debris NASA complained about will likely burn up in the atmosphere and is no cause for long-term concern.
NASA criticises India for debris
India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) conducted a successful anti-satellite (A-SAT) missile test in a programme called ‘Mission Shakti’.
India shot down a decommissioned satellite flying in a low orbit approximately 300 kilometres away to show off its long-range defence system.
After the test, the country became one of the only four in the world to have this advanced military capability. US, China, and Russia also have this technology. PM Modi announced this development in a televised address on March 27.
On April 1, NASA described Mission Shakti as a “terrible, terrible” experiment that threatened the safety of the ISS because it created about 400 pieces of debris.
It also said it was tracking 60 debris pieces from the test and found that 24 flew close to the ISS and posed a collision risk.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine had said, “That kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight that we need to see.”
However, India had defended itself saying that the debris will burn up in 45 days. Bridenstine had agreed that the risk was temporary.
New space rules?
General Hyten mentioned that there should be international rules governing behaviour in space because increasing debris will pose challenges in the future.
“And where those norms of behaviour should begin, in my opinion, is with debris, because as the combatant commander responsible for space today, I don’t want more debris,” he said.
US Senator Tim Kaine echoed a similar concern and asked what these rules should look like because there are an increasing number of operational satellites.
He also said the US Senate or Foreign relations department should promote rules for using the Earth’s atmosphere.
There is no official word yet on what these rules are and which countries will be bound by them.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius.