India conducted a weapons test recently that hurled a missile into space to destroy a satellite. NASA says that the massive amount of debris the weapons test created in orbit around the Earth now poses a threat to the ISS. According to NASA, in the ten days, since India conducted the test the chance of debris colliding with the ISS is up by 44%.
The test of the anti-satellite weapon makes India the fourth country to have carried out such a test. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the mission, dubbed Mission Shakti, conducted on March 27 had made India a “space power.”
NASA head Jim Bridenstine criticized India for the weapon test stating that NASA had identified 400 pieces of orbital debris and was tracking 60 pieces that are larger than 10cm in diameter. NASA says that 24 of those pieces are a potential threat to the ISS.
India disagrees with NASA stating that it carried out the test in low Earth orbit, 186-miles above the surface of the Earth, so it didn’t leave debris that might collide with the ISS or satellites. G Satheesh Reddy, head of India’s Defence Research and Development Organization, said that the debris would “vanish in no time.”
NASA agrees that the debris will eventually vanish from orbit. China performed a similar test in 2007, and that test is said to have created nearly a third of all debris that NASA is tracking. NASA says that the ISS orbit could be changed if needed pointing out that it and its crew are safe. Some arms control advocates are concerned about the increasing militarization of space, some in Inda see the weapon test as a political stunt ahead of general elections happening on April 11.