Skip to Content
MIT Technology Review

India says it has just shot down a satellite in space

Category:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the successful test in a live television broadcast to the nation, saying it now made India a space power, Reuters reports.

Bullseye: “Some time ago, our scientists, shot down a live satellite 300 kilometers away in space, in low Earth orbit,” Modi said in an hour-long statement that was broadcast on all national TV stations. Ajay Lele, at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, told Reuters that it was likely the satellite was destroyed using a missile that carried no warhead. 

Exclusive club: India is only the fourth country to have successfully shot down a satellite. The US, Russia, and China have all done so in the past. The US and Russia both did so in the 1980s, and China conducted its first successful test in 2007.

Debris threat: China’s 2007 test was condemned as irresponsible when it happened as it created a massive cloud of debris of almost 3000 pieces that were big enough to be tracked by NASA. Many thousands more were too small to see. Even small pieces of debris can be hazardous for other satellites or the International Space Station. We do not yet know what has happened to the remnants of India's satellite.

Security fears: The satellite test comes as India is gearing up for an election and is approaching the period during which the government is not allowed to make any policy statements designed to swing votes. Issues of national security are exempt, however, and this week’s display of strength comes against the backdrop of rising tensions with neighboring Pakistan.

Want to keep up with space tech news? Sign up for our space newsletter, The Airlock.