On March 27th, India conducted a missile test that resulted in the detonation of the satellite “Microsat-R.” The satellite was orbiting Earth at a distance of around 186 miles. The Indian government attempted to justify the mission by claiming that the low altitude did not pose any kind of threat to the International Space Station.
It would seem that NASA disagrees.
NASA’s administrator, Jim Bridenstine, recently addresses India’s missile test and said that it did, in fact, create some debris that made its way into higher orbits. The International Space Station orbits right around 254 miles and according to Bridenstine, India’s test sent debris at altitudes beyond that. According to the tracking being performed by NASA, the test created 400 pieces of debris, and about 20% of that is large enough that the pieces can be tracked by radar and other military equipment.
Bridenstine said that some of those larger pieces (24, to be exact) have bone higher than the orbit of the International Space Station. Bridenstine called the action “unacceptable.” He went on to say that the actions India displayed risks manned space flights in the future. The real issue is the potential precedent that has been set. NASA fears that now that India has conducted a test like this, other counties may be compelled to follow suit. The result could be more dangerous debris not only threatening the International Space Station, but also future missions aboard other crafts, and not just NASA-run missions.
The US Air Force and State Department monitored the test, too, but neither spoke as negatively about it as Bridenstine (at least openly).
It would seem that private space companies feel pretty strongly about the test as well. Planet is a private company that specializes in producing satellite images for commercial purposes. As you might imagine, they maintain a sizable fleet of satellites in orbit. A spokesperson from the company also went public, condemning India’s defense department for the recent missile test.
The interesting takeaway here is that commercial businesses have been given voices that rival that of government agencies like NASA, further giving an indication to the ever-growing commercialization of space. Regardless of whether it’s private or from a government entity, we haven’t seen anyone supporting the missile test conducted by India.