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India committed to defend its interests in outer space: Government’s 10-point FAQs on Mission Shakti

The prime minister, however, highlighted that India’s action was aimed at ensuring its security and not directed against any country.

India committed to defend its interests in outer space: Government’s 10-point FAQs on Mission Shakti
Image Courtesy: ANI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday addressed the nation and announced that today is a historic day for the nation as India had entered into the elite club of space powers by successfully shooting down a low earth orbit satellite with an anti-satellite missile or ASAT. The PM said that with the success of 'Mission Shakti', India has now become the fourth country after the US, Russia and China to have tested such an anti-satellite weapon. The prime minister, however, highlighted that India’s action was aimed at ensuring its security and not directed against any country.

Soon after the PM's address, the Ministry Of External Affairs (MEA) released a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on Mission Shakti.

Here is the list of FAQs put out by MEA on the historic mission:

I. What was the test?

1. India conducted Mission Shakti, an anti-satellite missile test, from the Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam Island launch complex on Wednesday (March 27, 2019). Carried out by DRDO, this was a technological mission and the satellite used in the mission was one of India’s existing satellites operating in lower orbit. The test requied a high degree of precision and technical smartness but it was fully successful and achieved all parameters as per plans. 

2. The most notable thing about the whole mission is that India has tested and successfully demonstrated its capability to interdict and intercept a satellite in outer space based on technology which is completely indigenous.

3. With this success of this historic mission, India joins an exclusive group of space-faring nations consisting of USA, Russia and China.

II. Which satellite was used?

The satellite used was an Indian satellite.

III. Which Missile/Interceptor was used?

The Ballistic Missile Defence interceptor of DRDO was used. The missile is part of the ongoing ballistic missile defence programme of DRDO.

IV. There are other ways to demonstrate ASAT capabilities such as “fly-by tests” and Jamming. Why has India used the particular technology of Kinetic Kill?

India has developed capability in this technology. It is a known fact that space technologies are constantly evolving and DRDO has used the technology that is appropriate to achieve the objectives set out in this mission.

V. Does the test create space debris?

The test was done in the lower atmosphere in order to ensure that there is no space debris. The debris that is generated will decay and fall back onto the earth within weeks.

VI. Why did we do the test?

1. India's long-standing space programme has expanded rapidly in the last five years. The success of Mangalyaan Mission to Mars had encouraged the government to sanction the Gaganyaan Mission which will take Indians to outer space.

2. India has undertaken 102 spacecraft missions consisting of communication satellites, earth observation satellites, experimental satellites, navigation satellites, apart from satellites meant for scientific research and exploration, academic studies and other small satellites. The space programme of India is a critical backbone of security, economic and social infrastructure of the country.

3. The government sanctioned the test to verify that India has the capability to safeguard our space assets. It is the responsibility of the government to defend the interests of India in outer space.

VII. Why was the test done now?

The DRDO decides to carry out the tests after it had acquired the required degree ofconfidence to ensure its success, and reflects the intention of the government to enhance India’s national security. India has seen an accelerated space development programme since 2014.

VIII. Is India entering into an arms race in outer space?

1. India has no intention or desire of entering into an arms race in outer space. India is committed to use space only for peaceful purposes and the government is strictly against the weaponization of Outer Space. India also supports international efforts to reinforce the safety and security of space based assets.

2. India believes that Outer space is the common heritage of humankind and all space-faring nations must take the responsibility to preserve and promote the benefits flowing from advances made in space technology and its applications for all.

3. India is a party to all the major international treaties relating to Outer Space. India already implements a number of Transparency and Confidence Building Measures(TCBMs) – including registering space objects with the UN register, prelaunch notifications, measures in harmony with the UN Space Mitigation Guidelines, participation in Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination (IADC) activities with regard to space debris management, undertaking SOPA (Space Object Proximity Awareness and COLA (Collision Avoidance) Analysis and numerous international cooperation activities, including hosting the UN-affiliated Centre for Space and Science Technology Education in Asia and Pacific. India has been participating in all sessions of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

4. India also supported UNGA resolution 69/32 on No First Placement of Weapons on Outer Space. Indian government sees the No First Placement of weapons in outer space as only an interim step and not a substitute for concluding substantive legal measures to ensure the prevention of an arms race in outer space, which should continue to be a priority for the international community.

5. India supports the substantive consideration of the issue of Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) in the Conference on Disarmament where it has been on the agenda since 1982.

IX. What is the international law on weapons in outer space?

1. The principal international Treaty on space is the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and India is also a signatory to this treaty. It was ratified by Indian government in 1982. The Outer Space Treaty prohibits only weapons of mass destruction in outer space, not ordinary weapons.

2. India is hopeful of playing an important role in the future in the drafting of international law on prevention of an arms race in outer space including inter alia on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space in its capacity as a major space faring nation with proven space technology.

3. India is not in violation of any international law or Treaty to which it is a Party or any national obligation.

X. Is the test directed against any country?

1. The test is not directed against any country.

2. The government is however, fully committed to ensuring the country’s national security interests and is alert to threats from emerging technologies. The capability achieved through the Anti-Satellite missile test provides credible deterrence against threats to our growing space-based assets from long range missiles, and proliferation in the types and numbers of missiles.