Debris from anti-satellite test to disintegrate in 45 days: official

The Hindu

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U.S. confirms that the 270 pieces don’t pose threat to International Space Station

The satellite targeted with an Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile under Mission Shakti has broken up into at least 270 pieces, most of which are expected to disintegrate within 45 days, Defence sources said on Friday.

“The satellite has disintegrated into at least 270 pieces which has also been confirmed by the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD). One of them is a large piece that has been deorbited and is estimated to be completely degraded by April 5,” the official said. The rest of the pieces are estimated to disintegrate in less than 45 days, he stated.

Being in the Low Earth Orbit, the debris would fall towards earth and burn up as soon as they enter the atmosphere.

Imaging satellite

Officials identified the targeted satellite as Microsat-R, an imaging satellite that was launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on January 24 using a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. The satellite, weighing 740 kg, was placed in an orbit of 274 km above earth.

On Wednesday, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) shot down Microsat-R with a modified exo-atmospheric missile of the ballistic missile defence at an altitude of 300 km.

Being monitored

The ASAT test was tracked by sensors of various agencies. Upon impact, data transmission from the satellite stopped and electro-optic systems confirmed an explosion, the official said.

Debris from anti-satellite test to disintegrate in 45 days: official

Other ISRO satellites and systems too noticed the breakup of Microsat-R, another official said, adding that the debris was being monitored.

Separately, U.S. officials in Washington have confirmed the test and the debris generated. Lt. Gen. David Thompson, vice-commander of the U.S. Air Force Space Command, said in a hearing before a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that soon after the test, their agencies began collecting information about the break-up of the vehicle and are “tracking about 270 different objects in the debris field.”

“Likely, that number is going to grow as the debris field spreads out and we collect more sensor information,” he informed the committee and added that the debris posed no immediate threat to the International Space Station or most other satellites in Low Earth Orbit.

Debris pose significant risk to satellites and other systems launched into orbit as they last for a long time especially in higher orbits. For instance, China’s 2007 ASAT test in an orbit of around 800 km created around 3,000 pieces of debris, of which 616 have decayed. The rest are still in orbit.

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