Indian Missile Program Updates

A resolution to ban kinetic ASAT tests


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ASAT, space debris and related facts

Mains level: Space weaponization why ASAT test band is important



  • There is growing momentum behind a global moratorium on destructive kinetic anti-satellite (ASAT) tests. A few days ago, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed a resolution calling for a ban on kinetic ASAT tests.

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What the resolution is all about?

  • Sponsored by United states: The resolution was sponsored by the United States along with a number of other countries that have been concerned about the consequences of ASAT tests on the safety and sustainability of outer space.
  • Majority voted in support: As many as 155 countries voted in support of the resolution, nine voted against it, and nine others abstained.
  • Those who voted against the resolution: Belarus, Bolivia, Central African Republic, China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, and Syria.
  • Countries with abstention: The nine abstentions were India, Laos, Madagascar, Pakistan, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Togo, and Zimbabwe.


Provisions of the resolution over the ban of ASAT

  • No binding effect but urges to prevent arms race in outer space: The ASAT test-ban resolution has no binding effect on states and simply calls on states to put a stop to ASAT tests and to develop further practical steps and contribute to legally binding instruments on the prevention of an arms race in outer space.
  • Other space related resolutions also passed: Along with the ASAT test-ban resolution that was passed on December 7, there were several more space- and nuclear-related resolutions, including No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (NFP).
  • Support to minimize risks in space: Indeed, the resolution continues to support the broader efforts at developing “further practical steps” to minimize risks in space.

What is ASAT?

  • ASATs (Anti-Satellite Weapons): According to a document of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), ASATs (Anti-Satellite Weapons) are aimed at destroying or disabling space assets, whether military or civilian, offensive or defensive.
  • They are generally of two types: kinetic and non-kinetic.
  1. Kinetic ASATs: They must physically strike an object in order to destroy it. Examples of kinetic ASATs include ballistic missiles, drones or any item launched to coincide with the passage of a target satellite. This means any space asset, even a communications satellite, could become an ASAT if it is used to physically destroy another space object.
  2. Non-kinetic ASATs: A variety of nonphysical means can be used to disable or destroy a space object. These include frequency jamming, blinding lasers or cyberattacks. These methods can also render an object useless without causing the target to break up and fragment absent additional forces intervening.


Why ASAT tests are to be banned?

  • Threat to peaceful utilization of outer space: ASAT tests represent a direct threat to peaceful utilization of outer space on which everyone in the global community depends.
  • Threat to safety of satellites: In recent years, there has been a spurt in activities that threaten the safety and functioning of satellites. The November 15, 2021, ASAT test by Russia, which destroyed the Cosmos 1408 satellite, is a case in point.
  • Space debris a potential hazard to Space station: The test created about 1,800 tracked pieces of space debris and possibly many more pieces that are difficult to track, and a hazard for astronauts aboard the International Space Station
  • Rare, high-tech, and risky to test: ASAT is an anti-satellite weapon that can target enemy satellites, blinding them or disrupting communications besides providing a technology base for intercepting ballistic missiles.


Way ahead

  • There are other initiatives underway in the U.N., such as the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on reducing space threats through norms, rules, and principles of responsible behaviours.
  • Like the ASAT test ban, these are needed to make progress on the broader space security agenda.
  • Whether a legal measure or a norm, states have to take small preventative steps before space becomes completely a warfighting domain.


  • Given the worsening space security conditions, with more countries pursuing development of ASATs and other counterspace capabilities, it is time that more countries join the current initiative to stop further ASAT tests. Unless countries can make a conscious decision to come together and work on ways to halt the current trends with regard to space weaponization, continued access to outer space is not a given.

Mains question

Q. What are ASATs? There is growing momentum behind a global moratorium on destructive kinetic anti-satellite (ASAT) tests. In light of this discuss Why ASAT must be banned?

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