The United States Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan warned any nations contemplating anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons tests like the one India carried out on Wednesday that may risk making a “mess” in space because of debris fields they can leave behind.
Speaking to reporters Shanahan said the United States was still studying the outcome of a missile India said it launched at one of its own satellites, “My message would be – We all live in space, let’s not make it a mess. Space should be a place where we can conduct business. Space is a place where people should have the freedom to operate.”
Science experts say that anti satellite weapons shatter targets posing a space hazard by creating a cloud of fragments that could collide with other objects, potentially setting off a chain reaction.
India’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement on Wednesday said the impact occurred in low-Earth orbit and that the remnants would “decay and fall back on to the Earth within weeks.”
The U.S. military’s Strategic Command was tracking the 250 pieces of debris from India’s missile test and would issue “close-approach notifications as required until the debris enters the Earth’s atmosphere.”
Lieutenant General David Thompson, vice commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command said that the International Space Station was not at risk at this point. NASA’s chief Jim Bridenstine said in a testimony before the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday that the consequences of anti-satellite weapons tests could be long-lasting.
India became the fourth country in the world to have tested such an anti-satellite weapon after United States, Russia and China. The United States ran the first anti-satellite test in 1959.