ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Mission Shakti (Anti-Satellite Missile Test)


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mission Shakti, ASAT

Mains level: Strategic significance of the Mission Shakti 


  • In an incremental advance, India has successfully conducted an Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile test, named Mission Shakti.
  • India becomes the fourth country in the world to demonstrate the capability to shoot down satellites in orbit.
  • So far, only the United States, Russia and China have this prowess.

Mission Shakti

  • While Mission Shakti may have targeted an object in outer space, India has long developed the ability to intercept incoming missiles.
  • In 2011, a modified Prithvi missile mimicked the trajectory of a ballistic missile with a 600-km range.
  • The DRDO-developed Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) Interceptor Missile successfully engaged an Indian orbiting target satellite in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in a ‘Hit to Kill’ mode.
  • The interceptor missile was a three-stage missile with two solid rocket boosters.

What are low earth orbit satellites?

  • The Indian satellite that was shot down was a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite.
  • These are satellites roughly at an altitude of 2,000 kilometres from the earth and that’s the region where the majority of satellites are concentrated.

ASAT through history

  • ASAT is the technological capability to hit and destroy satellites in space through missiles launched from the ground.
  • ASAT weapon systems have a long history and were a product of the Cold War hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • They came back into popular currency after China conducted an anti-satellite missile test on Jan 2007.
  • The target was a Chinese weather satellite — the FY-1C – that sailed at an altitude of 865 km. (537 mi).
  • A year later, the US launched ‘Operation Burnt Frost,’ the code name to intercept and destroy a non-functioning satellite named USA-193.

Why target satellites?

  • Satellites are extremely critical infrastructure of any country these days. A large number of crucial applications are now satellite-based.
  • These include navigation systems, communication networks, broadcasting, banking systems, stock markets, weather forecasting, disaster management, and military applications etc.
  • Destroying a satellite would render these applications useless.
  • It can cripple enemy infrastructure, and bring it down on knees, without causing any threat to human lives.

Problem of space debris

  • Anything launched into the space remains in space, almost forever, unless it is specifically brought down or slowly disintegrates over decades or centuries.
  • Satellites that are past their life and are no longer required also remain in space, orbiting aimlessly in some orbit.
  • According to the NASA, there were 19,137 man-made objects in space that were large enough to be tracked.
  • These included active and inactive satellites, rockets and their parts, and other small fragments.
  • A satellite that is destroyed by a missile disintegrates into small pieces, and adds to the space debris.
  • The threat from the space debris is that it could collide with the operational satellites and render them dysfunctional.
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