In News: India’s anti-satellite (ASAT) test in March 2019 made it the fourth country (after the United States, Russia, and China) to have a demonstrated ASAT capability.
- India for decades has had a policy against the Weaponization of space, however India had remained concerned about China’s growing space power since its first successful ASAT test in January 2007.
- This pushed India to invest in its own capabilities to deter China.
- Therefore, even states that want to keep their space programmes focused on civilian applications will likely focus on national security considerations under duress.
- A classic security dilemma where all sides end up worse off – As long as certain countries believe they have a legitimate security interest in pursuing an ASAT capability, others will find ways to justify it as well.
- It accentuates regional insecurities rather than diminishing the threats faced by countries.
- China’s increasing tendency to use force, including potentially in outer space, has increased the vulnerabilities not just for the big powers but for India as well.
- ASAT weapons and such systems make other states vulnerable.
- Compared to the Cold War days and the superpower rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, the competition now involves many more countries.
- Also, given the much larger dependence on space by all major space powers, including for conventional military operations, the temptations for targeting each other’s space assets are that much higher.
- One fortunate aspect is that ASAT weapons have not been deployed yet by states. They are still in the phase of demonstration of technical feasibility.
- This provides a narrow window of opportunity to prevent deterrence requirements from driving state policy in outer space.
- This necessitates urgent multilateral discussions on ways to reduce tensions, enhance openness and transparency.
- The US decision for a unilateral moratorium on destructive ASAT tests is gaining some interest.
- Acknowledging the dangers of ASAT weapons and making ASAT tests a prime issue in multilateral arms control discussions.
- A limited conversation among the four ASAT powers can be a starting point and a step in the right direction.
- The current Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) under the UN on reducing space threats through norms, rules, and principles of responsible behaviours could be a platform that might generate such commitments.
- Mission Shakti: On 27 March 2019, India tested an anti-satellite weapon (ASAT).
- The target of the test was a satellite present in a low Earth orbit, which was hit with a kinetic kill vehicle.
- India’s ASAT test hit a target satellite at an altitude of 300 kilometres.
- The ASAT test utilized a modified anti-ballistic missile interceptor code-named Prithvi Defence Vehicle Mark-II which was developed under Project XSV-1.
- The test made India the fourth country after the United States, Russia and China to have tested an ASAT weapon.
- The test sparked concerns regarding the creation of space debris.
- U.S.: In 2008, US Navy fired RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 ABM weapon at a decaying satellite
- Russia: In 2015, Russia successfully conducted anti-satellite mission known as PL-19 Nudol.
- China: In 2017, China destroyed a satellite called Fengyun-1C with a kinetic kill warhead
Source: Observer Research Foundation