China debris threatens Indian satellites

TNN

The space debris created by China’s anti-satellite test in 2007 poses a threat to Indian satellites, the government said this week.

India’s remote-sensing satellites are placed in low-earth orbit above 175 km (600 km to 900 km polar orbit). This has the highest density of debris cloud that was created after the test.

Stating its policy on militarisation of space in Parliament, the government said, “India is strongly opposed to any attempt to place weapons in space or conducting any unconventional weapons tests in space as it would pose a perennial threat to all space systems regardless of their use for civilian or military purposes.”

But over the past three years, India has ramped up its own capabilities to take defensive positions in a future conflict in space.

India’s concerns regarding China are behind the revival of ballistic missile defence (BMD) discussions between India and the US. However, sources said, due to Obama adminsitration’s fundamental objection to BMD there is no agreement on when the next round of talks would be held. A possible acquisition of the Arrow from Israel or Patriot 3 from the US is also part of India’s missile defence programme.

Separately, India is working on technology to be able to defend its satellites. A few weeks ago, V K Saraswat, scientific adviser to the defence minister, said in Bangalore, “our country does not have a policy to attack anybody in space. But as part of the ballistic missile defence programme, we have all the technology elements required to integrate a system through which we can defend our satellites or take care of future requirements.”

In a rare admission, the government said China’s ability to conduct an ASAT test — the ability to destroy a satellite in space — was, by its very nature a threat to Indian security.

Quoting international space surveillance agencies, they said, China’s test immediately created millions of pieces of debris of size 1 mm to 1 cm, 40,000 pieces between 1 cm and 10 cm, 800 pieces more than 10 cm. It’s the last lot that is particularly dangerous to satellites. These debris also collide among themselves and break up into smaller pieces, and according to US estimates, 97% of them remain in orbit.

While some countries are debating laws that prevent weaponisation of space, there’s no real law in circulation yet. The government said two UN treaties regarding activities and exploration of moon and other bodies do stress on using space for peaceful purposes. But due to ambiguities in interpretation, the government said, certain countries were conducting these tests.

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Posted by pilotpaul on Mar 6 2011. Filed under All News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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