A day after the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) branded India’s anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons test as a “terrible thing”, the US State Department played it down saying Washington has noted New Delhi’s assertion that it took into account the space debris problem.
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that while the issue of space debris “is an important concern” for the US, “we took note of the Indian government’s statements that the test was designed to address space debris issues”.
“We have a strong strategic partnership with India, and we will continue to pursue shared interests in space, in scientific and technical cooperation with India, and that includes collaboration on safety and security in space,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last week announced that India had become the fourth country in the world to become a space superpower capable of taking out an enemy satellite in space.
In the Mission Shakti operation, the indigenously-built anti-satellite ASAT missile successfully destroyed a target satellite in the Low Earth Orbit (LWO), the PM announced.
Hours after the operation, the US expressed concern over the issue of space debris.
Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had warned any nation contemplating anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons tests like the one India carried out, that they risk making a “mess” in space because of debris fields they can leave behind.
The Ministry of External Affairs had, however, said the test was done in the lower atmosphere to ensure there is no space debris. Whatever debris that is generated will decay and fall back onto the earth within weeks, it said.
The government also came out with a 10-point explainer to say the anti-satellite missile test was carried out to verify India’s capability to safeguard space assets and that it was not directed against any country.
However, NASA head Jim Bridenstine on Monday criticised India’s ASAT test saying that it had created 400 pieces of orbital debris and led to new dangers for astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
“What we are tracking right now, objects big enough to track – we’re talking about 10 centimetres or bigger – about 60 pieces have been tracked,” he further said.
He asserted that it increased the risk to ISS and “that kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight”.