April 22, 2019

What was Mission Shakti?

  • In March 2019, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully conducted Mission Shakti from the Dr AP J Abdul Kalam Island in Odisha.

  • It was an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test which involved successfully engaging an Indian orbiting target satellite in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) at an altitude of nearly 300 km in a ‘Hit to Kill’ mode.

  • The interceptor missile was a three-stage missile with two solid rocket boosters.

What is the Significance of Mission Shakti?

  • Entire effort is indigenous, which is a remarkable technological feat, thus vindicating the technological competence of the DRDO.

  • In the process, India became the 4th country (after the US, Russia and China) that have had demonstrated ASAT capabilities.

  • The test has demonstrated the Nation’s capability to defend its assets in outer space.

  • In future, India will have a greater say in international negotiations on outer space.

  • It is also a big boost to the on-going Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) programme under which the DRDO is developing, in two distinct phases, a two-layered shield against hostile missile attacks.
    • Phase-I of the programme envisages the interception of up to 2000 km range ballistic missiles in both the endo-atmosphere and exo-atmosphere in the altitude range of 15-25 km and up to 140 km, respectively.

    • Under Phase-II, the DRDO aims to intercept longer range missiles of 5000 km range at a higher altitude of up to 400 km.

What should be the way ahead for India?

  • India should move towards weaponising this ASAT capability and all the associated space technologies so as to effectively deter adversaries from destroying Indian space assets.

  • But this would require the government’s support, provision of resources and a comprehensive defence space security architecture encompassing a
    • Defence Space Command (for operational control of the weapon) and

    • Dedicated Space Research Agency (to harness the full military potential of space).

How will the proposed “Defence Space command” Work?

  • Background: In 2009, India established an Integrated Space Cell (ISC) under Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (HQ IDS) to coordinate the space-related aspects of the three defence forces. This Cell needs to be upgraded to a dedicated defence Space Command.

  • Mandate: Apart from coordinating the space-related aspects of the three defence forces, it would also be responsible for the operational aspects of all space based platforms and associated assets, besides laying out the strategy and doctrine for space warfare.

  • Composition: It may be headed by a senior military officer, with specialists from DRDO, NTRO and ISRO.

How will the proposed “Defence Space Research Agency (DESRA)” work?

  • Parent agency: DESRA may be set up under the DRDO.

  • Mandate: DESRA will help in harnessing the entire spectrum of space technologies with defence applications. Some of the technologies and areas that DESRA should exclusively focus upon include:
    • Space Situational Awareness (SSA): SSA would play a critical role in mapping and cataloguing space-borne objects, including those of potential adversaries, for the purpose of devising suitable counter strategies.

    • SIGINT/COMINT/ELINT/IMAGEINT Satellite: These satellites are primarily used for fulfilling specific military and intelligence community tasks.

    • Formation Flying: In Swarm missions, orbiting satellites operate in various formations to achieve a variety of objectives ranging from killing adversary satellites to undertaking coordinated intelligence gathering operations.

    • Directed Energy Weapons (DEW): DEWs include systems such as high power microwaves, precision high power lasers and light-directed energy capabilities, which provide contactless, non-kinetic means to achieve superiority in space.

  • Why need of DESRA when ISRO is there? ISRO has a civilian character, which is committed to various international treaties that promote the peaceful, or non-military, uses of outer space. Changing ISRO’s character to an overtly military one may not be a good move.