The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have described India’s destruction of one of its satellites as a ‘terrible thing’ because it has led to dangers for astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS).
Jim Bridenstine, the head of NASA said the hit had created 400 pieces of orbital debris. Five days ago, India had shot down a low-orbiting satellite, at a relatively low altitude of 300 kilometres, in a missile test to be named amongst the world’s advanced space powers.
NASA had been tracking India’s hit throughout. Bridenstine explained that not all the pieces were big enough to track. Bridenstine said “What we are tracking right now, objects big enough to track, we are talking about 10 centimetres or bigger. About 60 pieces have been tracked.”
The NASA head said 24 of the pieces are going above the apogee of the ISS. “That is a terrible, terrible thing to create an event that sends debris at an apogee that goes above the International Space Station. That kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight”, Bridenstine added.
Bridenstine said “It is unacceptable. NASA needs to be very clear about what its impact to us is.” He added that the risk of collision with the ISS has increased by 44 per cent over 10 days. However, this risk will dissipate over time as much of the debris will burn up as it enters the atmosphere.
The US military tracks objects in space to predict the collision risk for the ISS and for other satellites. They are currently tracking 23,000 objects larger than 10 centimetres.