Pentagon warns India against ‘messy’ tests in space, despite doing similar one in 2008

India risks creating dangerous debris while blasting missiles into space, the Pentagon said, despite having conducted a very similar test in the past and producing thousands of pieces of space junk orbiting the Earth.

New Delhi successfully conducted an anti-satellite missile test this week. In Washington, acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan admonished India for littering in orbit.

My message would be: We all live in space, let’s not make it a mess,” he told reporters, adding that the US is still studying the effects of India’s missile on the environment. The military earlier noted that it is currently tracking around 270 objects left from the destroyed satellite.

Shanahan’s concerns were met with reassurances from India. G. Satheesh Reddy, who leads the nation’s Defense Research and Development Organization, said that all the debris will burn up in about 45 days.

That’s why we did it at lower altitude, it will vanish in no time,” the official told Reuters.

US 2008 anti-satellite missile test (L) juxtaposed with India’s test in March 2019 © US Navy / Wikinews (L); Government of India / PIB India / Twitter (R)

The Pentagon should be familiar with this approach, considering that it spent decades developing and testing various anti-satellite technologies. Its first anti-satellite missile test came in 1959, just years after the first-ever satellite was launched by the Soviet Union.

In 2008, the US used a ship-launched missile to destroy one of its defunct low-altitude satellites, USA-193. The test, codenamed Operation Burnt Frost, was similar to the one India did. And the military rebuffed the numerous concerns over the debris in a strikingly similar fashion – by promising that within 40 days, it would all burn up on reentry.

In the meantime, the United States remains one of the main ‘producers‘ of space debris in the world. It is responsible for 694 rocket parts and 3,990 smaller objects, classified as debris, orbiting the Earth, a 2018 Business Insider report showed.

Mitigation of space debris is one of the main issues the whole of humankind faces regarding space exploration and creating any more of it must be discouraged, Dr. Moriba Jah, a professor with the University of Texas, believes.

Destroying satellites in orbit and intentionally doing things that create debris is not a behavior we want to encourage and it’s certainly not a behavior that shows good towards space environment,” Jah told RT.

It’s unlikely that all the debris created during the anti-satellite missile test will reenter shortly, as some of it might end up in higher orbits, threatening other, operational satellites – and creating the potential for more collisions and more debris, Jah warned.

Like this story?