SWF Hosts Panel Discussion on India's ASAT Test

Friday, May 10, 2019

SWF hosted a panel discussion, "India's ASAT: A Jolt to Space Stability," in DC on May 6, 2019.  At this event, Bob Hall, director of operations for AGI’s Commercial Space Operations Center (ComSpOC), gave a fascinating presentation demonstrating their modeling and simulation of debris creation by the Indian ASAT.  He said that as of 3 May, 94 fragments had been published by 18th SPCS. However, AGI’s modeling indicates that over 6000 pieces of debris greater than 1 cm were generated, and that there will be quite a lot at the 2-5 cm in size that will be up for 3-4 years. 

Ankit Panda of the Federation of American Scientists argued that this test was done not to demonstrate India’s space capabilities but rather to validate its hit-to-kill exoatmospheric missile defense interceptor.  He pointed out some unusual language the Indian government used in describing the ASAT test, including emphasizing the 3 minute-long flight to interception, MEA’s FAQ calling the interceptor a MD interceptor, and an announcement by India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) that phase 1 of India’s indigenous BMD system was complete in April.  He talked about Pakistan’s tactical low-yield nukes and how that affects India’s strategic calculus.

SWF Washington Office Director Victoria Samson talked about India’s lack of national space policy, and used statements by PM Modi and its Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to point out Indian priorities highlighted by this test.  She brought up statements by the head of DRDO that this was not a one-off event, and gave an update on India’s limited SSA capabilities.

For more information, including video (and eventual transcript) of the event and news coverage, please go to the event page.

Last updated on May 17, 2019