Anti-satellite missile test has increased the chances the ISS will be struck by debris to 49%


Space junk from a satellite shot down in March by India means the International Space Station is more likely to be penetrated by space junk than previously thought.

Sergei Krikalyov – executive director of the Russian space agency’s manned space program – issued the warning, according to reports from news agency TASS.

More than 400 pieces of debris appeared after India tested an anti-satellite interceptor missile, launched by the nation in March.  

NASA previously estimated that the missile test had increased the chances of any space junk hitting the International Space Station (ISS) to 44 per cent. 

India has been keen to play down the effects of its weapon launch, previously claiming that the debris would burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. 

Mr Krikalyov made the comments at a session of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ space council.

He said: ‘The Americans have carried out calculations on the probability of the station getting punctured because of more debris surfacing and being dispersed. 

‘There are numerical estimates raising the probability of a puncture by about five per cent.’

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a televised address to the nation on March 27 that the country’s Air Force had successfully tested its own anti-satellite weapon, shooting down a satellite in low near-Earth orbit.

As Modi noted, the tests have enabled India to join the club of the world’s space super-powers, which includes the United States, Russia and China. 

The interceptor missile developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was launched from a testing range located on Abdul Kalam Island in the Bay of Bengal. 

The satellite shot down by an interceptor missile was a space vehicle produced by India domestically.

US officials claimed in late March that debris from the Indian test would likely burn up and ‘vanish’ in a matter of weeks.

This came amid an outcry over its potential to add to the already pressing issue of space junk that orbits the planet. 

There are an estimated 170 million pieces of so-called ‘space junk’ – left behind after missions that can be as big as spent rocket stages or as small as paint flakes – in orbit alongside some $700 billion (£555bn) of infrastructure. 

In 2007, China destroyed a satellite in a polar orbit, creating the largest orbital debris cloud in history, with more than 3,000 objects, according to the Secure World Foundation.

Since the impact altitude exceeded 800 km (500 miles), many of the resulting scraps stayed in orbit.

The comments came after an estimation by India’s top defence scientist that the debris would burn up in about 45 days. 

Larger debris from the test continues to be a concern almost three months on, however.

Roscosmos’ Roman Fattakhov, who is responsible for monitoring debris in orbit, previously stated that that more than 100 pieces of debris may pose a risk to the ISS.


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