India announces it shot down a satellite
NEW DELHI, India – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed on March 27 that his country had successfully intercepted and destroyed a satellite in low-earth orbit. Ajay Lele, at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, told Reuters that it was likely the satellite was destroyed using a missile that carried no warhead.
“Some time ago, our scientists, shot down a live satellite 300 kilometers away in space, in low Earth orbit,” Modi said in an hour-long statement that was broadcast on all national TV stations.
Scientists estimate that the satellite that India clams to have destroyed would have been orbiting the Earth at approximately 17,000 miles per hour.
If confirmed, India would join just the United States, China, and Russia in successfully shooting down a satellite. The U.S. and the former USSR both intercepted satellites. Most recently, in 2007, China performed the feat, much to the displeasure of the United States, who said the test was irresponsible and spread debris that may endanger the International Space Station and other satellites.
The Chinese test caused a spread of nearly 3,000 pieces of debris that posed a threat to many operational satellites due to the debris cloud’s polar orbit that was tracked by NASA. It is currently not known what has happened to the remnants of the Indian satellite intercepted.
India recently got into a skirmish with rival neighbor Pakistan, and both are nuclear powers.
"Space is the common heritage of mankind and every nation has the responsibility to avoid actions which can lead to the militarization of this arena," Pakistan's foreign ministry said in a statement.
However, Kazuto Suzuki, an international relations professor at Hokkaido University in Japan and an expert on space security, told the New York Times that India’s test was a “demonstration against China."
“It’s as significant as India’s first nuclear blast,” Saurav Jha, the editor in chief of the Delhi Defense Review, told the Times. “The militarization of space is underway, whether anybody likes it or not." "India is not placing weapons in space," said Lele. "A ground-based missile defense interceptor system was used to destroy the satellite. If some country or adversary places a satellite for intelligence or for troubling India, India now has the capability to remove such an irritant."
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