NASA chief blasts India for ‘terrible’ destruction of satellite

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WASHINGTON: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) chief Jim Bridenstine has lambasted India for destroying one of its satellites at a relatively low altitude during Mission Shakti.

His comments came five days after India said that it had conducted an anti-satellite missile test by successfully shooting down a low-orbiting satellite in a missile test to prove its mettle as a global space power.

The Indian satellite was destroyed last week at an altitude of 180 miles (300 kilometers) which is well below the ISS and most satellites in orbit.

“That is a terrible, terrible thing to create an event that sends debris at an apogee that goes above the International Space Station,” Bridenstine told NASA’s employees. “That kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight.”

“It’s unacceptable and Nasa needs to be very clear about what its impact to us is.” As a result of the Indian test, the risk of collision with the ISS has increased by 44 percent over 10 days, Bridenstine said.

Bridenstine said that not all of the pieces of destroyed satellite were big enough to track.

“What we are tracking right now, objects big enough to track — we’re talking about 10 centimeters (six inches) or bigger — about 60 pieces have been tracked,” he was quoted by India Today as saying.

But 24 of the pieces “are going above the apogee of the International Space Station”, Bridenstine said.

“At the end of the day we need to be clear with everybody in the world, we’re the only agency in the federal government that has human lives at stake here. And it is not acceptable for us to allow people to create orbital debris fields that put at risk our people,” he said.

Bridenstine said while the risk of the ISS went up 44 per cent, the astronauts are still safe.

“The International Space Station is still safe. If we need to manoeuvre it, we will. The probability of that I think is low. But at the end of the day we have to be clear also that these activities are not sustainable or compatible with human spaceflight,” Bridenstine said.