India has shot down a low earth orbit satellite with an indigenously-developed ASAT missile, a giant leap for the country’s space capability that propelled India into an elite club comprising US, Russia, and China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a rare televised address to the nation on Wednesday.
“Some time ago, our scientists, shot down a live satellite 300 kilometers away in space, in low-earth orbit… It was conducted under Mission Shakti, which was completed in three minutes,” PM Modi said in his 10-minute address.
The weapon, an Anti-Satellite missile or ASAT missile, allows for attacks on enemy satellites – blinding them or disrupting communications – as well as providing a technology base for intercepting ballistic missiles. The interceptor was indigenously produced, he said.
“India has registered its name in the list of space superpowers. Until now, only three countries had achieved this feat,” he said.
The ASAT missile was launched from DRDO’s testing range in Odisha’s Balasore at about 11.16 am, nearly an hour before PM Modi appeared on television, according to news agency ANI. It said the decommissioned satellite blown up in space was a micro-satellite launched by the ISRO on January 24 this year.
The Foreign Ministry followed up Prime Minister Modi’s announcement about the Anti-Satellite weapon with a statement explaining India’s stand to the world. New Delhi underlined it was only driven by its responsibility to deter threats to its space assets from long-range missiles and had no plans to enter into an arms race in outer space.
The opposition rushed to congratulate scientists at Defence Research and Development Organisation or DRDO. The Congress also added that the anti-satellite missile programme was started during its tenure and accused PM Modi-led government of trying to derive political mileage from the success of scientists.