On March 27, India announced it had successfully conducted an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test. This was called as India’s mission shakti. India’s Mission Shakti was an important step by aerospace engineers of India. On the other hand, India’s Mission Shakti is also posing a threat to the peace of Space. After the United States, Russia, and China, India have become the fourth country in the world to have demonstrated this capability. Although the destroyed satellite was one of India’s own, the test has caused concerns about the space debris generated, which potentially threatens the operation of functional satellites. The test also comes amid fear over the weaponization of space and the damage that could be unleashed by any possible war that could take place between countries with the ability not only to cause great destruction on earth but in Space too. Two

The success of the test may be a plus for Prime Minister Modi, who is now trying to win in his second term in the 2019 election, but it can be viewed as a loss for Global Security, nations and regularity bodies struggle to maintain a view of space as a neutral and conflict-free Arena in the face of escalating technological capabilities.

Total Solar Eclipse – Photo credit pixabay.com

Power and Strength:

Since the first satellite was launched in 1957 ( The Soviet Union’s Sputnik) space has become – and will continue to be – a Frontier where big power enhances their presence by launching and operating their own satellites.

There are currently 1957 satellites orbiting the earth. They provide crucial economic, civil and scientific benefits to the world, from generating income to a wide range of services such as navigation, communication, weather forecast, and disaster relief.

The tricky thing about satellite is that they can also be used for military and national security purposes, which still serves the Civil end: One good example is GPS( Global Positioning System). So, it is not surprising big powers are keen to develop their ASAT capabilities.

A space view – photo via pixabay.com

Danger Of Space Debris:

A direct consequence of ASAT is that it creates space debris when the original satellite breaks apart. Space debris consists of pieces of non-functional spacecraft and can vary in size from tiny Paint flecks to an entire dead satellite. Space debris orbits from hundred to thousands of kilometers above the earth.

The presence of space debris increases the likelihood of operational satellite being damaged.

Although India downplayed the potential for danger by arguing that its test was conducted in the lower atmosphere, this perhaps did not take into account the creation of pieces smaller than 5-10 cm in diameter.

In addition, given the potential self-sustaining nature of space debris, it is possible that its amount caused by India’s ASAT will actually increase due to the collision.

Solar System – Photo via pixabay.com

Aside from the quantity, the speed of space debris is is another worrying factor. Space junk and travel at up to 10 km per second in lower earth Orbit where India intercepted its satellite. So, even very small particles posed a real threat to space missions such as human spaceflight and robotic refueling missions.

Spaceship design – photo via pixabay.com

Regulatory Catch-up:

As we are witnessing clearly now with social media, when Technology moves fast, the law can struggle to keep up and this leads to regulatory absence. This is also true of international space law.
Five fundamental Global space treaties were created between 35 and 52 years ago:
1- Outer space treaty (1967): It governs the activities of the states in exploration and use of outer space.
2- Rescue agreement (1968): It is related to the rescue and return of astronauts, the return of launched objects.
3- Liability convention (1972): It governs damage caused by space objects.
4- Registration convention (1967): It is related to the registration of objects in space.
5- Moon agreement (1984): It governs the activities of States on the moon and other celestial bodies.

These were written when there were only a handful of space-faring Nations and space Technologies were not as sophisticated as they are now.

Space Satelite – Photo credit pixabay.com

Although these treaties are binding legal documents, they leave many of today’s issues unregulated. For example, in terms of military space activities, the outer space treaty only Prohibits the deployment of weapons of mass destruction in space, not conventional weapons (including ballistic missiles, like the one used by India in mission Shakti).
In addition, the Treaty endorses that outer space shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. However, the issue is how to interpret the term ” peaceful purposes.”

India claimed, after its ASAT test: We have always maintained that space must be used only for peaceful purposes.

When terms such as peaceful seem to be open to interpretation, it is time to update Laws and regulations that govern how we use space.

New Approaches:

Several International efforts aim to address the issues posed by new scenarios in space, including the development of military space technologies. For example, McGill University in Canada has led the MILAMOS project, with the hope of clarifying the fundamental rules applicable to the military use of outer space.

A similar initiative, the Woomera Manual, has been undertaken by Adelaide Law School in Australia.

Though commendable, both projects will lead to the publication of soft laws. These laws will have no legal binding force on governments.

The United Nations needs to work much harder to attend to space security issues. The disarmament commission and committee on the Peaceful uses of outer space can be encouraged to collaborate on the issues regarding space weapons. It is in everyone’s best interests to keep space safe and peaceful.