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Mission Shakti: Everything We Know About India’s A-SAT Weapon

All you need to know about Mission Shakti, India’s first test of A-SAT weapons.

Updated
India
3 min read

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on Wednesday, 27 March, to announce India’s successful testing of Anti-Satellite (A-SAT) weaponry. Mission Shakti, as the operation is known, was marked successful after it destroyed a test satellite 300 kilometers in space.

Here’s what we know about Mission Shakti so far:

  • It successfully tested India’s first A-SAT weapon system, destroying a test satellite 300 km in space.
  • The A-SAT is entirely made in India, by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • The mission destroyed the test satellite with “remarkable precision” in just three minutes.
  • It makes India is the fourth country to successfully test an Anti-Satellite weapon system, after the US, Russia and China.
  • Target destroyed by India's A-SAT missile was an out-of-service Indian satellite
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Since the weaponising of space is prevented by the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 now, the technology has been in development since as early as the 1950s. The Soviet Union had, in fact, tested its first A-SAT system in 1958.

In a 2012 interview with India Today, then DRDO chief Vijay Kumar Saraswat had said that India has all the building blocks in place for an A-SAT weapon.

Here’s how ASAT weapons work:

  • VK Saraswat had told India Today that the first thing that comes in is the ability to track an orbiting satellite in space.
  • A-SATs are space weapons that are designed to destroy satellites for strategic military purpose.
  • A-SAT weapons are basically long-range missiles with a kinetic kill vehicle attached to them. They can be locked on to the target, intercept, engage and destroy in one swoop.
  • The range of these A-SAT missiles depends on their launch location. The US and Russia have experimented with ship, land and space launches. India appears to have used land.
  • India's ABM program, used in missile systems like the Agni, could have been tweaked into an A-SAT weapon, Saraswat said.
  • ISRO now has the capability to launch two tonnes of payload, an important prerequisite for launching any weapon system.
  • A-SAT projects were adapted for ABM use. The ABMs could also be used to develop A-SAT missiles, Saraswat said in 2012.
  • India has used a three-stage Ballistic Missile Defence program (BMD) to test its A-SAT system.

Here are a few more points on Mission Shakti, as provided by the Ministry of External Affairs:

1. WHAT WAS THE TEST?

  1. On 27 March 2019, India conducted Mission Shakti, an anti-satellite missile test, from the Dr A P J Abdul Kalam Island launch complex. This was a technological mission carried out by the DRDO. The satellite used in the mission was one of India’s existing satellites operating in lower orbit. The test was fully successful and achieved all parameters as per plans. The test required an extremely high degree of precision and technical capability.
  2. The significance of the test is that India has tested and successfully demonstrated its capability to interdict and intercept a satellite in outer space based on complete indigenous technology.
  3. With this test, India joins an exclusive group of space-faring nations consisting of the USA, Russia and China.

WHICH MISSILE/INTERCEPTOR WAS USED?

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

DOES THE TEST CREATE SPACE DEBRIS?

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

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The test was done to verify that India has the capability to safeguard our space assets.

WHY WAS THE TEST DONE NOW?

The tests were done after we had acquired the required degree of confidence to ensure its success, and it reflects the intention of the government to enhance India’s national security. India has seen an accelerated space development programme since 2014.

(With inputs from India Today, The Diplomat, The Indian Express and Ministry of External Affairs.)

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