Indian scientists question Nasa chief’s remark on A-SAT debris

Two Indian space scientists rubbished Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine’s view that the debris from India’s recent anti-satellite (A-SAT) test poses a threat to the International Space Station (ISS).

Former chief of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), V K Saraswat, told Times of India “this is a typical American way of dealing with the progress India made.”

Saraswat said debris generated by the anti-missile test at the altitude of 300 kilometres will fall and burn out soon after entering the earth’s atmosphere.

Hundreds of thousands of debris are roaming the space. Don’t they pose any threat to ISS? Making harsh comments on the debris from India’s anti-satellite test is meaningless.

ISS is orbiting the earth at an altitude of 330-450 kilometres. Hence the debris do not pose a threat to the space station as alleged by Bridenstine.

Former DRDO scientist Ravi Gupta described Bridenstine’s comment as “discriminatory and irresponsible.”

The US, Russia and China too have conducted similar anti-satellite tests and left behind lot of debris in space in the past. These objects pose a threat to space assets of several nations, including that of India, Gupta told Times of India.

Tapan Misra, former director of Ahmedabad-based Space Applications Centre, said the debris from the anti-satellite test is in the 300 kilometre range and it will dissipate in six months.

Answering a query in an open house session at the Gujarat National Law University, Misra told a student that China did a similar test at 800 kilometre altitude and the debris from it is still flying around. Indian scientists will not commit any such mistake to shame their country, he said, according to an Indian Express report.

Addressing Nasa employees at a town hall meeting on Monday, Bridenstine claimed the orbital debris from India’s anti-satellite test called ‘Mission Shakti’ has risen above the ISS orbit around the earth.

Such tests posing risk to humans in space, and low earth orbit operations, are unacceptable and terrible. Such activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight, he said, at the meeting which was live-streamed on NASA TV.

Creating debris fields intentionally is wrong. If any country does it, it must pay the consequence. That consequence is not being paid right now, the Nasa chief said.

Most of the debris from tests are low in earth orbit and they will vanish. But much of the debris from a 2007 Chinese anti-satellite test is still in orbit, he said.