Indian Officials Dismiss NASA’s Concern Over Debris from ASAT Test

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Indian officials are dismissing concerns expressed by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine about debris in low Earth orbit from an Indian anti-satellite (ASAT) test that could threaten the International Space Station (ISS) and other spacecraft.

The Hindustan Times reports that an official from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as downplaying the dangers.

The DRDO chief and a spokesperson did not comment. An official of the agency, while asking not to be named, said the debris will disappear in 45 days. “The test was calibrated keeping in mind the debris issue. The world should know that debris from two Chinese tests is still floating whereas those created by the Indian test will disappear,” he added.

An Indian expert said that India conducted the anti-satellite test responsibly but agreed it could have raised risks for the ISS. “I would say India conducted the test responsibly. At 300km, the altitude is lower than that of the ISS and most of the other satellites and the debris will come back to the atmosphere of the earth eventually. That said, there is a possibility that some debris might enter the apogee of the space station; the risk of collision increases as it does with any object sent to space ,” said Rajeswari Rajagopalan, head of nuclear and space initiative, Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi hailed the test, saying it made India a space power.

During a NASA all-hands meeting on Monday, Bridenstine said the test created 400 pieces of debris, including 24 that went above the apogee of the International Space Station (ISS).

“That is a terrible, terrible thing, to create an event that sends debris into an apogee that goes above the International Space Station,” he said. “And that kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight. It’s unacceptable, and NASA needs to be very clear about what its impact to us is….

“While the risk went up 44 percent, our astronauts are still safe. The International Space Station is still safe. If we need to maneuver it, we will. The probability of that, I think, is low,” Bridenstine added.

The space station has maneuvered on many occasions to avoid potential debris strikes.

Bridenstine expressed concerns that the Indian ASAT test will inspire other nations to conduct similar ones, thus increasing the debris in orbit.