Adding itself to the select space club of U.S., Russia and China, India became the fourth nation in the world to successfully shoot down a low-orbiting satellite with a missile, announced Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday.
“Our scientists shot down a live satellite 300 kilometres away in space, in low-earth orbit,” Modi said in a television broadcast.
“India has made an unprecedented achievement today,” he added, speaking in Hindi. “India registered its name as a space power.”
The test was carried out only weeks before India’s general elections, and it marks the latest advance in the growing weaponization of space.
Anti-satellite weapons allow for attacks on enemy satellites, blinding them or disrupting communications, as well as providing a technology base to intercept ballistic missiles.
The development of weapons capabilities has raised fears of setting off a race between rival powers and sparking space conflicts.
Brahma Chellaney, a security expert at New Delhi’s Centre of Policy Research, told Reuters that the U.S., Russia and China were also pursuing anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons.
“Space is being turned into a battlefront, making counter-space capabilities critical. In this light, India’s successful ‘kill’ with an ASAT weapon is significant,” he said.
China has yet to respond to Modi’s announcement. Old rival Pakistan, which has felt rising tensions with India recently, did not immediately comment either.
Whether India’s test will fuel the race to become the dominant nation in low-Earth orbit and beyond, or, as India claims, “secure and further peace” is still uncertain.
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