For the first time, deemed as Mission Shakti last week, India demonstrated its ability to destroy low orbit satellites using an anti-satellite weapon. India became the fourth nation across the globe to demonstrate ASAT, and the move has since gained a lot of criticism from space scientists, researchers, and other industry stakeholders because of the space debris produced when the defunct satellite was destroyed.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has labeled the recent Indian anti-satellite missile test a terrible thing that has destroyed a satellite in low Earth orbit and blasted 400 pieces of debris into space. For Bridenstine, this kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight, speaking at a live-streamed Town Hall gathering of NASA employees. It is unacceptable, and NASA needs to be very clear about its impact.
During the NASA Town Hall, Bridenstine says that due to the successful mission of India’s satellite destruction, it has created over 400 pieces of debris, and NASA could currently track around 60 of those. A subset of many of those pieces is actually swinging into an orbit above the ISS, which could be a potential danger for the station and the astronauts within if it were to collide with the station.
What we are tracking right now, objects big enough to track we’re talking about 10 centimeters (six inches) or bigger about 60 pieces have been tracked – Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator
It is estimated to be about 900,000 pieces of debris more substantial than marble in orbit around the earth, according to statistical models cited by the European space agency. It is estimated that about 34,000 particles are circulating that are larger than 10cm.
The good news, for now, is that Bridenstine says there is little danger to the station and the astronauts within. Indian lawmakers and the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) are yet to respond to NASA’s comments.