What is significant about Mission Shakti?
What are anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons?
• They are missile-based systems to attack moving satellites.
• So far the United States, China and Russia were the only ones who’ve reported the ability to shoot down space objects from ground or airborne sources.
• The development of such systems has a long history — fuelled by the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union — with a waxing or waning of funding.
• There are different kinds of systems — those that can be launched from the ground or those vaulted from planes.
• In the Cold War/Space Race era, 1985 was the last time that the United States had used an anti-satellite system to destroy its P-781 satellite that had instruments aboard to study solar radiation.
• Anti-satellite weapons came back into popular currency after China conducted an anti-satellite missile test on January 11, 2007. The government officially confirmed this only on the January 23, after reports in several US media.
• The target was a Chinese weather satellite — the FY-1C – that sailed at an altitude of 865 kilometres (537 mi).
• A year later, the United States launched ‘Operation Burnt Frost,’ the code name to intercept and destroy a non-functioning U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellite named USA-193.
What are India’s capabilities so far?
• While ‘Mission Shakti’ may have targeted an object in outer space, India has long developed the ability to intercept incoming missiles.
• In 2011, a modified Prithvi missile, mimicked the trajectory of a ballistic missile with a 600-km range. Radars at different locations swung into action, tracking the “enemy” missile, constructing its trajectory and passing on the information in real time to the Mission Control Centre (MCC) to launch the interceptor, an Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile.
• It had a directional warhead to go close to the adversarial missile before exploding to inflict damage on it.
What are Low-Earth Orbit satellites?
• The Indian satellite that was shot down was a Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite.
• These are satellites roughly at an altitude of 2,000 kilometres from the earth and that’s the region where majority of satellites are concentrated.
• A database from the Union of Concerned Scientists, a non government organisation based in the United States, says that there are at least 5 known Indian satellites in LEO: India PiSat, Resourcesat 2, Radar Imaging Satellites 1 and2 and SRMsat.
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