Washington: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) chief has said the destruction of one of India’s satellites is a “terrible thing” that had produced 400 pieces of orbital debris leading to increased hazards for astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
According to Bridenstine, the risk of collision with the ISS has risen by 44 percent over 10 days after the Indian test.
Jim Bridenstine was speaking to NASA staff after India shot down a low-orbiting satellite in a missile test to show it was among the world’s advanced space powers.
But the threat will reduce over time as much of the debris will burn up after entering the atmosphere.
Not all of the pieces were big enough to track, Bridenstine explained. “What we are tracking right now, objects big enough to track – we’re talking about 10 centimeters or bigger – about 60 pieces have been tracked.”
The satellite was destroyed at a relatively low altitude of 300 kilometers, well below the ISS and most satellites in orbit.
But 24 of the pieces “are going above the apogee of the International Space Station,” said Bridenstine.
“That is a terrible, terrible thing to create an event that sends debris at an apogee that goes above the International Space Station,” he continued, adding: “That kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight.”
“It’s unacceptable and NASA needs to be very clear about what its result to us is.”
The US military traces objects in space to forecast the collision risk for the ISS and for satellites. They are presently following 23,000 objects larger than 10 centimeters.
The military is tracking nearly 10,000 pieces of space debris, of which nearly 3,000 were generated by a single event: a Chinese anti-satellite test in 2007 at 530 miles from the surface.