Debris from India's anti-satellite test still orbiting Earth


29 Jun 2019

Apparently, debris from India's anti-satellite missile is still orbiting Earth

Back in March, India reaffirmed its position as a space power by demonstrating the ability to destroy a satellite in low-Earth orbit.

The test, dubbed Mission Shakti, was widely appreciated but also criticized for creating loads of debris in space.

Now, reiterating the same concerns, an astronomer has claimed the junk created by the mission is still circling our planet.

Here's what he said.


Dozens of satellite pieces in orbit

Dozens of satellite pieces in orbit

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tracked the debris created by the satellite that India destroyed with its A-SAT missile.

He found that as many as 41 pieces from the satellite are still circling the planet at different altitudes even 92 days after the execution of the mission.

He also shared a chart representing the altitudes of the pieces.

Here is the altitude chart

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NASA claimed A-SAT mission created 400 pieces of debris

When India announced the success of Mission Shakti, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine called the project a terrible thing and claimed that it had created as many as 400 pieces of orbital debris.

He said not all of these pieces are traceable, but nearly 60 are big enough - about 10cm or longer - to do some serious damage to satellites, ISS.

Indian claim

However, Indian authorities say majority of the debris has decayed

However, Indian authorities say majority of the debris has decayed

Notably, DRDO had said at the time of the test that all debris will fall and burn in Earth's atmosphere in 45 days.

G Satheesh Reddy, the organization's chairman, backed that claim last month, noting that "most of the debris has decayed. And, whatever, couple of pieces are there, they will be decaying in a short period of time."


However, McDowell's analysis tells a different story

Going by the estimates from Indian authorities, the debris should at least be on the verge of disappearing.

However, the fact that dozens of traceable pieces still exist in the orbit shows a different story.

Considering the current altitude of remaining pieces, McDowell predicts they would take about a year or so to re-enter and burn up in Earth's atmosphere.

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Mission Shakti



G Satheesh Reddy

Harvard-Smithsonian Center

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics



Jim Bridenstine

Jonathan McDowell

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine

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