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Anti-Satellite Weapon Test


Prelims: Science and technology (Satellite and weapon system), Anti-satellite weapon, Kinetic Energy weapon, Outer Space treaty

Mains: General Studies-III Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-technology, Bio-technology and issues relating to Intellectual Property Rights.

Why in the News ?

Russia is actively working towards a formidable new development in space technology, focusing on creating a nuclear anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon. U.S. intelligence committee chair told U.S. President to declassify it.

Source: TH 

Key Facts 🗝️

In a high-altitude test in 1962 called Starfish Prime, the U.S. detonated a thermonuclear bomb 400 km above ground. It remains the largest nuclear test conducted in space.


  • Anti-Satellite Weapon:

    • It is designed to destroy satellites that are already in orbit and are operational.
    • Types of Anti-Satellite Weapons: ASATs are broadly classified into two types namely
      • Kinetic energy methods: This involves launching a missile that intercepts and physically collides with the target satellite to destroy it.
      • The kinetic energy ASATs physically collide with satellites and can reach altitudes. These ASATs can be ballistic missiles, drones, and other satellites.
      • Non-kinetic methods: They use non-physical attacks such as cyber-attacks, jamming, and even lasers to blind satellites without physically destroying them. 
    • Attack: Can be launched from the air, low orbit, or even ground installations.
    • These can even undertake pellet cloud attacks on enemy’s low orbit satellites.
    • Other ASAT capabilities include cyber-attacks on space systems, Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) explosion devices, directed energy (laser based) weapons and targeted missiles for destruction of satellites to sabotage the enemy’s military operations. 
    • There are many countries which have this capability, but only four countries — including India — have demonstrated their ASAT capabilities.
    • Issues:
      • These weapons generate tremendous amount space debris, which poses a hazard to all space operations, including civilian and commercial satellites.

A kinetic energy weapon

  • It is also known as kinetic weapon, kinetic energy warhead, kinetic warhead, kinetic projectile, kinetic kill vehicle, is a projectile weapon based solely on a projectile‘s kinetic energy to inflict damage to a target.
  • The term hit-to-kill, or kinetic kill, is also used in the military aerospace field to describe kinetic energy weapons accelerated by a rocket engine

Outer Space Treaty, 1967:

  • The treaty provides the basic framework for international space law.
  • The exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind.
  • Outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States.


Mains: PYQ/FAQ

Q. International civil aviation laws provide all countries complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above their territory. What do you understand by ‘airspace’? What are the implications of these laws on the space above this airspace? Discuss the challenges which this poses and suggest ways to contain the threat. 

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