A-SAT: Collaboration with ISRO will continue, NASA chief takes a turnaround

April 5, 2019
NEW DELHI: The chief of the US space agency, NASA, Jim Bridenstine has said that the collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will continue. Earlier, following India's successful anti-satellite missile test, the NASA was sceptical about the dangers from the debris left behind in the orbit by the satellite blast.

Although India's testing took place far below the level of the International Space Station, and India had assured that the debris will disappear or fall to earth soon, the NASA Administrator had expressed apprehensions of the possibility of some debris moving up and posing a threat to astraunauts.

Jim Bridenstine had criticised India and described the anti-satellite test a “terrible, terrible thing” that created about 400 pieces of orbital debris. “We will continue to monitor the remaining debris from your test as relates to safety of our human spaceflight activities especially at the International Space Station," he had said.

“As part of our partnership with you, we will continue to work on issues using the NASA-ISRO Human Space Flight Working Group, Planetary Science Working Group, US India Earth Science Working Group, and the Heliophysics Working Group,” Bridenstine said in a letter to ISRO Chairman K Sivan on Thursday.

Clarifying the changed situation, he said, “Based on guidance received from the White House, I look forward to continuing these groups in the future.”

Earlier he had sent a letter indicating suspension of activities under the NASA-ISRO Human Space Flight Working Group. “And that kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight ... unacceptable”, he had said.

Bridenstine had said the testing had left 400 pieces of debris in space. Sixty pieces were larger than 10 cm in diameter and 24 of them had risen above the apogee of the space station, increasing its risk of being hit by debris by 44%. He had added that the space station could be moved for its safety, but it would not be needed.

The sudden turn of events indicates that the Indian Government's note that the test was done after taking into account the fallout and making safeguards against dangers the debris pose, was taken at face value by Pentagon.

The Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) launched the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Interceptor missile, in the Anti-Satellite (A-SAT) missile test called ‘Mission Shakti’ on March 27, 2019. Destroying its own low-orbit satellite with the ground-to-space missile, India became a "space power", achieving a "historic feat."

Only three other countries - the US, Russia and China - have anti-satellite missile (ASAT) capabilities.

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