India's Anti-Satellite Test Created Dangerous Space Junk, NASA Chief Says

India anti-satellite missile test a 'terrible thing,' NASA chief says

"India has registered its name in the list of space superpowers".

External affairs ministry has given assurances that the Operation Shakti ASAT test last week would not create a space debris problem.

"This is a proud moment for India", the prime minister had said in his first televised national address since late 2016. "The main objective of our space program is ensuring the country's security, its economic development, and India's technological progress".

The state department's softball approach to the test contrasted sharply with the hardline taken by the NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine who characterized the Indian test as a "terrible, awful thing" that endangered the ISS and said it is "unacceptable" and "that kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight".

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Bridenstine went on to discuss the range of commercial activities that are planned for low-Earth orbit - from pharmaceutical to manufacturing enterprises - which could be put at risk by clouds of debris. Of all the debris created, the agency says it is now tracking 60 pieces, some of which will even swing into orbit above the ISS, causing further alarm.

Of those, 24 went above the ISS at the point furthest from its orbit of the earth.

India says the debris is harmless and will not affect any other satellites or the ISS. "India has no intention of entering into an arms race in outer space".

"We will continue to work with like-minded countries to address gaps in the worldwide legal regime governing the exploration and use of outer space with a view to ensuring that no one threatens peaceful activities and applications of space technologies for socio-economic development." the statement added.

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While the test established India as a space power, Modi has been criticized by political parties across the country for using this as a political stunt ahead of general elections set to take place later this month. The United States military is now tracking 23,000 objects in space, of which 10,000 are debris. "That kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight that we need to see have happen", he said.

At the moment, NASA is monitoring about 23,000 pieces of junk, measuring about 10 centimeters or bigger. The satellite itself was in low orbit, but the blast pushed many pieces of debris into and above the orbit of the ISS.

The debris created by the Indian test will have a much less lasting impact on orbital safety than the ones the other space powers have left behind, says Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi.

"We have identified as 400 pieces of debris from that one event".

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That outcome stands in stark contrast with a similar test China performed at a relatively high altitude in 2007, which left potentially risky bits that are still shooting around in orbit.

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