And in Other News….India Destroyed a Satellite in Orbit

India has announced that it destroyed one of its own satellites in orbit and created debris in a demonstration of an anti-satellite weapon.

While the Indian prime minister boasted of the achievement, there was concern around the world about the militarization of space and the danger to satellites from the weapon and the debris created by the test.

Rival Pakistan tweeted an official response:

Pakistan has responded over Indian claimed Anti Satellite Missile Test in space. “Space is the common heritage of mankind and every nation has the responsibility to avoid actions which can lead to the militarisation of this arena,” – Foreign Ministry

Defense News reports that U.S. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the test was an example of why the Pentagon needs to establish an independent Space Force as a new branch of the Armed Services.

“We all live in space. Let’s not make it a mess,” he said while en route to a meeting at U.S. Southern Command. “Space should be a place where we can conduct business, space should be a place where people have freedom to operate. We cannot make it unstable, we cannot create a debris problem that ASAT tests create. So, thoughtfulness goes a long way.

“Not having rules and engagement is worrisome, so how people test and develop technology is important, but how we share this critical domain — I would expect anyone who tests does not put at risk anyone else’s assets. There are certain basic principles.”

Shanahan pointed to India’s missile launch as why an American Space Force “is so important.”

“We talk about space being a contested domain. It’s a good example of how many changes are taking place in that environment,” he said, adding that the Indians “probably aren’t the only people who have that kind of capability.”

San Francisco-based Planet, which has flown its remote sensing satellites on Indian launch vehicles and has spacecraft on an upcoming PSLV launch, issued the following statement:

While Planet enjoys a great working relationship with agencies of India’s government — like ISRO — we categorically condemn the anti-satellite missile intercept recently conducted by India’s defense department. Space should be used for peaceful purposes, and destroying satellites on orbit severely threatens the long term stability of the space environment for all space operators. Planet urges all space-capable nations to respect our orbital commons.

The United States and China have demonstrated anti-satellite weapons by destroying satellites on orbit. Russia is reportedly working on that capability.

The weapons could be used to blind an adversary in time of war. Destroying spacecraft also worsens a growing orbital debris problem that threatens satellites and the International Space Station.