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India's anti-satellite test created dangerous debris, NASA chief says

By Sarah Lewin
April 03, 2019, 10:11:17 AM EDT

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said today (April 1) that India's recent anti-satellite test created 60 pieces of orbital debris big enough to track, 24 of which rise higher than the International Space Station's orbit around Earth.

Bridenstine had harsh words to say about India's test today in a NASA town hall meeting, saying that causing this type of risk to humans in space, and low Earth orbit operations, was unacceptable.

"That is a terrible, terrible thing, to create an event that sends debris in an apogee that goes above the International Space Station," Bridenstine said at the town hall meeting, which was livestreamed on NASA TV. "And that kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight that we need to see happen."

india missile

India's Press Information Bureau India tweeted this image of Wednesday's (March 27) "Mission Shakti," the country's first test-fire launch of an anti-satellite weapon.
(Image: © Press Information Bureau India/Twitter)

We are charged with commercializing low Earth orbit; we are charged with enabling more activities in space than we've ever seen before for the purpose of benefiting the human condition, whether it's pharmaceuticals or printing human organs in 3D to save lives here on Earth, or manufacturing capabilities in space that you're not able to do in a gravity well," he added. "All of those are placed at risk when these kind of events happen — and when one country does it, then other countries feel like they have to do it as well."

Bridenstine said that NASA has identified 400 pieces of orbital debris from the event, including the 60 greater than 10 centimeters in diameter that the agency can track and 24 that travel through the space station's orbital height. As of last week, the agency, along with the Combined Space Operations Center(part of U.S. Strategic Command), had estimated that the risk to the International Space Station of small-debris impact had risen by 44 percent over a period of 10 days.

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