SWF Releases Updated Compilation of Anti-satellite Testing in Space

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

SWF has released an updated compilation of the history of anti-satellite (ASAT) testing in space as a public Google Spreadsheet. The update was done by SWF summer intern Kaila Pfrang, working with SWF Director of Program Planning Dr. Brian Weeden. 

The goal of the spreadsheet is to document all ASAT tests in space and any orbital debris created by those tests. Criteria for inclusion in this sheet are: tests of a known ASAT system (either co-orbital or direct-ascent) or tests of a hit-to-kill midcourse missile defense system against a target above 100 km.

The sheet currently lists more than 70 tests that have been conducted by four countries (the United States, Russia, China, and India) since 1959. The majority of the tests were conducted by the United States and Soviet Union during the first two decades of the Cold War, but there has been a recent resurgence with more than 20 tests conducted since 2005. In total, ASAT testing has created nearly 5,000 pieces of cataloged orbital debris, more than 3,200 of which are still on orbit. Many of the tests pushed orbital debris much higher than the altitude of the destroyed object, which contributed to the average lifespan of 25 years for the debris from each test to re-enter the atmosphere. 

SWF welcomes feedback on the sheet, including comments, questions, corrections, and additions. Contact details can be found in the spreadsheet.

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Last updated on June 30, 2020