After NASA branded India’s Mission Shakti as a "terrible thing" that had created 400 pieces of orbital debris and led to new dangers for astronauts aboard the International Space Station, the US State Department on Wednesday said that the US has a strong strategic partnership with India and it will continue to pursue shared interests in space.
Robert Palladino, US State Department spokesperson said, “As we’ve said previously, we have a strong strategic partnership with India, and we will continue to pursue shared interests in space, in scientific and technical cooperation, that includes collaboration on safety and security in space.” On NASA’s comment on Mission Shakti, Palladino said, “Now, the issue of space debris, that's an important concern for United States, and I would say that we took note of Indian government’s statements that the test was designed to address space debris issues.”
NASA’s comments came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week announced that India successfully test-fired an anti-satellite missile by shooting down a live satellite, describing it as a rare achievement that puts the country in an exclusive club of space superpowers. The test made India the fourth country in the world after the US, Russia and China to acquire the strategic capability to shoot down enemy satellites.
Not all of the pieces were big enough to track, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine explained. "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."
The Indian satellite was destroyed at a relatively low altitude of 180 miles (300 kilometers), well below the ISS and most satellites in orbit.
But 24 of the pieces "are going above the apogee of the International Space Station," said Bridenstine.
"That is a terrible, terrible thing to create an event that sends debris at an apogee that goes above the International Space Station," he continued, adding: "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."
The US had said it has taken note of India’s anti-satellite missile test but expressed concern over the issue of space debris.
Mission Shakti was led by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, was aimed at strengthening India’s overall security. The Prime Minister had advertised his address to the nation on Twitter, calling it an important message. “Do watch the address on television, radio or social media,” he said, setting off speculation across the country on what the topic was likely to be. Earlier on Wednesday, the Cabinet Committee on Security had met at the Prime Minister’s residence.