Anti-satellite weapon abbreviated as ASAT is a space weapon used to destroy satellites for strategic military purposes. Countries develop these in response to growing threats from other countries which are against their political, social and economic policies. ASAT serve various purposes like spying, gaining control and destroying enemy weapons. United States, Russia, China, India are the only countries that have successfully demonstrated ASAT capabilities.
It can be deployed as a defensive weapon system against space-based nuclear weapons.
It can be used as a countermeasure against ABM( Anti Ballistic Missiles).
It can be used as an interceptor and jammer for satellite communication of other countries.
It has the capability to be used as a Laser-based weapon and Electromagnetic pulse EMP explosion devices.
In the 1950s, US Airforce started a series of strategic missiles project. These projects were carried out under the Bold Orion Anti launch Ballistic Missiles(ALBM).
In the 1960s, use of high altitude nuclear explosion systems was considered by the US after successful completion of conventional systems. After this series of tests were carried out under DOMINIC series and Thor based systems.
Russia then USSR was developing its Co-orbital ASAT systems that had a different functioning than a US ASAT systems with successes and failures.
On March 27, 2019, India successfully tested an anti-satellite weapon under operation code Mission Shakti. It was a joint programme by DRDO( Defence Research and Development Organisation) and ISRO(Indian Space Research Organisation).
It involved hitting a satellite in lower earth orbit with a kinetic kill vehicle to demonstrate India’s capabilities in successfully destroying ABM(Anti Ballistic Missiles).
The Interceptor or ASAT system used in the test was a Ballistic Missile defence Interceptor named Prithvi Defence Vehicle Mark II.
The interceptor rocket used in the test had a hit-to-kill capable Kinetic vehicle. It had a length of 13 m and a measurement of 1.4 m. Being a three-phase rocket, it was fitted with two strong fuel rocket engine stages and the Kill vehicle. The consolidated load of the first and the subsequent stages is 17.2 tons, with the third stage weighing 1.8 tons. The initial two phases can carry 16.7 huge amounts of fuel.
The Kill Vehicle comprised the third phase of the interceptor rocket. It had a guidance system, including a non-gimballed imaging infrared searcher and an inertial route framework that used a ring-laser gyroscope, which identified and followed the Microsat-R satellite in Low Earth orbit.
India has a long-standing and quickly developing space program. It has extended quickly over the most recent five years. The Mangalyaan mission to Mars was effectively launched. From that point, the Government has endorsed the Gaganyaan Mission which will take Indians to space.
India has attempted in excess of 100 spacecraft missions consisting of communication satellites, earth observation satellites, exploratory satellites, navigation satellites, apart from satellites implied for research and investigation. India's space program is the spine of India's security, financial and social Infrastructure.
While most ASATs can destroy lower earth orbit satellites they have their limitations. Most spy satellites are located 800 km above the earth and if their orbits are raised the ASAT will not be able to hit the target.
GPS satellites and other communication satellites are above 20,000 km and 35,000 km above the earth which makes them impossible to hit.
The satellites deployed by the US, Russia and China have inbuilt safety protocols that can survive and ensure retaliation. Thus, ASAT can not be termed as game-changer in Military defence operations.
Concerns regarding Space debris the leftovers of destroyed satellites also pose a threat to other satellites, space shuttle and space stations.
1. What is Kinetic Kill Technology?
Ans: Kinetic ASAT just like Ballistic Missiles physically strike an object in order to destroy it. To destroy a satellite the exact speed and location of the satellite needs to be known. Depending upon it ASAT missile is launched with real-time location of the target.
2. What is SAT Technology?
Ans: The anti-satellite technology is used to destroy satellites in space and gain control over enemy movements in times of war. It can be helpful to countries to tackle military operations in space.
3. How is the Safety of Space Ensured?
Ans: To avoid any warfare in space treaties are signed like the Outer space treaty. After the cold war era, it was thought beneficial to have an agreement for the use of space for the benefit of mankind. Space exploration for a noble cause was thought rather than militarization of space for warfare.