Anti-satel­lite ca­pa­bil­ity can tar­get space satel­lites and act as de­ter­rent against In­dia’s pow­er­ful neigh­bours

India Today - - NATION - By San­deep Unnithan

In­dia now has the ca­pa­bil­ity to tar­get and de­stroy space satel­lites in or­bit. “To­day, we have de­vel­oped all the build­ing blocks for an an­ti­satel­lite ( ASAT) ca­pa­bil­ity,” sci­en­tific ad­viser to the de­fence min­is­ter and De­fence Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion ( DRDO) chief Vi­jay Saraswat told IN­DIA TO­DAY. This ca­pa­bil­ity has given In­dia a de­ter­rent against China. In Jan­uary 2007, a Chi­nese ASAT mis­sile de­stroyed an un­used weather satel­lite.

The test opened a new flank of vul­ner­a­bil­ity in In­dia’s $12 bil­lion (Rs 60,000 crore) space in­fra­struc­ture. In­dia has 10 satel­lites in­clud­ing the In­dian Space Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion ( ISRO) new Radar Imag­ing Satel­lite ( RISAT) 1. Launched on April 26, the spy satel­lite can iden­tify one-me­tre wide ob­jects from space. China’s alarm­ing test spurred In­dia’s quest for a sim­i­lar satel­lite-killing sys­tem.

The suc­cess­ful April 19 trial of 5,500 km-agni V In­ter­me­di­ate Range Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile that Saraswat calls a “game changer”, is an­other step to­wards the ca­pa­bil­ity to tar­get ob­jects in space. The mis­sile scaled a height of 600 km be­fore re-en­ter­ing the at­mos­phere. “DRDO will field a fullfledged ASAT weapon based on Agni and AD- 2 bal­lis­tic mis­sile in­ter­cep­tor by 2014,” says a top gov­ern­ment source who does not want to be named. This weapon is un­likely to be pub­licly tested.

This was con­firmed by Saraswat who says that In­dia will not test this ca­pa­bil­ity through the destruc­tion of a satel­lite. Such a test risked show­er­ing lethal de­bris in space that could dam­age ex­ist­ing satel­lites. In­stead, In­dia’s ASAT ca­pa­bil­ity would be fine-tuned through sim­u­lated elec­tronic tests.

Most mil­i­tary satel­lites or­bit up to 2,000 km above the earth’s sur­face in low earth or­bit ( LEO). Seek­ing to guide In­dia’s re­sponses to this emerg­ing threat, Space Se­cu­rity Co­or­di­na­tion Group ( SSCG) was set up in 2010. Chaired by the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Shiv Shankar Menon, SSCG in­volved rep­re­sen­ta­tives of DRDO, In­dian Air Force ( IAF) and Na­tional Tech­ni­cal Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion ( NTRO). Be­sides lay­ing

“In­dia now has all the build­ing blocks re­quired for the func­tion­ing of an anti-satel­lite ca­pa­bil­ity.”


DRDO chief

down the Gov­ern­ment’s space pol­icy, this body will also co­or­di­nate re­sponse on an in­ter­na­tional code of con­duct in space.

The US re­sponded to the Chi­nese test by down­ing an un­used satel­lite in 2008. In June 2010, the US in­di­cated that they would con­sider a new treaty for re­stric­tions on space-based weapons. A new treaty would fore­close In­dia’s op­tions for test­ing ASAT weapons. In­dian an­a­lysts say it could lead to a new re­stric­tive regime on space weapons, like the present treaties on test­ing and posses- sion of nu­clear weapons and long range bal­lis­tic mis­siles. The SSCG has di­rected DRDO to ac­cel­er­ate its ASAT ca­pa­bil­ity.

An­other key ASAT mile­stone ca­pa­bil­ity will be reached with the first test of a PDV in­ter­cep­tor later this year. This slen­der two-stage mis­sile can de­stroy in­com­ing bal­lis­tic mis­siles at an al­ti­tude of 150 km. The Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile De­fence ( BMD)

project that aims to pro­tect the coun­try from hos­tile bal­lis­tic mis­siles has, in fact, de­vel­oped the three crit­i­cal el­e­ments re­quired to de­stroy satel­lites. A long range radar able to de­tect them and a mis­sile that can in­ject a “kill ve­hi­cle” or war­head into an or­bit that ac­tu­ally homes in to de­stroy it. All these el­e­ments have been de­vel­oped un­der the BMD pro­gramme.

The DRDO’S Long Range Track­ing Radar can scan tar­gets over 600 km away. The ‘kill ve­hi­cle’ has been de­vel­oped as part of the bal­lis­tic mis­sile sys­tem. It has both elec­tronic and ra­dio-fre­quency guid­ance that can home in on bal­lis­tic mis­siles and satel­lites. “Un­like a bal­lis­tic mis­sile, a satel­lite has a pre­dic­tive path. A satel­lite has a di­am­e­ter of 1 me­ter while our BMD sys­tem can track and de­stroy tar­gets less than 0.1 me­tres,” says Saraswat.



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