NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine on Monday said the A-SAT missile's successful targetting of a live satellite on a low earth orbit (LEO) within three minutes, that created at least 400 pieces of orbital debris, has increased risk to the ISS.
Bridenstine said that NASA, along with the Combined Space Operations Center (part of US Strategic Command), had estimated that the risk to the ISS of small-debris impact had risen by 44 percent over a period of 10 days.
A view of Earth as seen from the Cupola on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station on June 12, 2013.
NASA's highest ranking official is speaking out on India's recent decision to shoot down a satellite from space.
Creating debris in orbit is a "terrible, awful thing", Bridenstine said at a live-streamed town hall meeting. The success of the mission was said to be indicative of India registering its military presence in space.
By conducting the ASAT test, India was not in violation of any global law or treaty to which it is a party to or any national obligation, it said. Precedent, however, suggests it could take much longer than that; in 2008, the USA destroyed a defunct satellite at an altitude of 250 kilometers, and it took about 18 months for all the material to fall back to Earth, according to SpaceflightNow. Of all the debris created, the agency says it is now tracking 60 pieces, some of which will even swing into orbit above the ISS, causing further alarm.
Anyone who's seen the film Gravity knows that debris is especially risky for the International Space Station. Speaking to employees at a townhall meeting, Bridenstine called the demonstration a "terrible, bad thing" as it led to the creation of even more space debris-bits of rockets and satellites that have broken away and now orbit Earth.
"We are charged with commercialising of low earth orbit".
"But at the end of the day we need to be clear, with everybody in the world, we're the only agency in the federal government that has human lives at stake here", Bridenstine said. The Indians argued the amount of debris created by their weapon test was minuscule compared to the amount of junk already in orbit.
Luckily, all six astronauts on the ISS are safe for now, but that doesn't mean NASA is overreacting to the news.
According to Dr M Annadurai, former director of Isro satellite centre in Bengaluru, the problem of space debris is a wider issue.