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More than 40 pieces of debris created by India's anti-satellite test still in space, says NASA

Post by Admin,Aug 21,2019.

According to the latest assessment of space debris by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), out of the 101 pieces of debris (big enough to be tracked) created by India’s Anti-Satellite System(A-SAT) test, 49 continued to remain in orbit.

  • It is possible that more pieces, smaller ones, created from the test, are floating around but were not being tracked.
  • It has been estimated that nearly 400 pieces were created from India’s test.
  • After the test, India had said that, since the test was carried out in the lower atmosphere, it did not expect to add any significant amount of space debris.
    • Whatever debris is generated will decay and fall back on to the earth within weeks.
  • The report is the first credible estimation in public domain of the amount of debris created by India’s anti-satellite test(conducted on 27th March, 2019) and what remains of it four months down the line.
  • India had 97 functional, and non-functional but intact satellites in space as on 30th June 2019 , and 157 pieces of trackable space debris, including fragments of rockets that become junk after delivering their payloads in their specified orbits. 
    • This is a very small proportion of the total of 19,404 large objects in space sent by all countries, of which 14,432 are debris and junk parts of used rockets.

 In 1978, the NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler proposed that a chain reaction of exploding space debris can end up making space activities and the use of satellites impossible for generations. He predicted that the number of objects that we keep launching into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) can create such a dense environment above the planet that inevitable collisions could cause a cascading effect. The space junk and shrapnel generated by one collision could make further collisions much more possible. And if you have enough collisions, the amount of space debris could overwhelm the orbital space entirely.

 NASA experienced a small-scale Kessler Syndrome incident in the 1970s when Delta rockets that were left in orbit started to explode into shrapnel clouds. This inspired Kessler, an astrophysicist, to show that there is a point when the amount of debris in an orbit gets to critical mass. At that point, the collision cascading would start even if no more things are launched into space. And once the chain of explosions begins, it can keep going until the orbital space can no longer be used. 

India had shot down its 740-kg Microsat-R satellite on 27th March, 2019 in a demonstration of its capability to destroy a space-based infrastructure of an enemy country.India’s Anti-Satellite Test

  • That anti-satellite test made India, only the fourth country in the world, to have demonstrated such capability.