07:56 GMT +319 November 2019
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    India Sets Twitter Afire After Hitting Its Own Satellite With Missile

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    The South Asian nation has joined the club of space powers, which already includes China, Russia, and the US, after announcing its first successful anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that they had managed to destroy a low Earth orbit satellite by using a missile that travelled a distance of 300 km.

    India, which has completed its first successful anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test by hitting one of its own satellites in low Earth orbit, has prompted several nations to warn about the potential threats in outer space, leading to a storm of jokes on Twitter. 

    On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a test, called Mission Shakti, in a television broadcast, saying that Indian scientists had shot down a live satellite after the projectile travelled 300 kilometres in under three minutes in what he called “an unprecedented achievement”. His address received a mixed response on social media: while some hailed the news, others mocked the head of the Indian government. As the topic of his announcement was not made public in advance, many feared the worst, discussing what he was going to talk about, but were eventually able to let out a sigh of relief.

    ​Others took aim at Modi and his “space” issues.

    ​Bollywood references were inevitable.

    ​The attitude on the international arena was not quite as light-hearted. Amid the peaking tensions between the two countries, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a special statement that space is the "common heritage of mankind and every nation has the responsibility to avoid actions which can lead to the militarisation of this arena".

    "Boasting of such capabilities is reminiscent of Don Quixote's tilting against windmills", the Pakistani ministry concluded, although they did not point their fingers at New Delhi or mention India directly.

    In turn, the Foreign Ministry of China, which previously destroyed its own weather satellite during an ASAT test in 2007, expressed hope that every state "can earnestly protect lasting peace and tranquillity in space".

    The US, whose air force confirmed that India had carried out a successful ASAT test and revealed that they knew about the launch in advance, also warned about the possible negative outcome of such tests. Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan said that any nations considering following India's suit should not make a "mess" in space as a result of the debris that the weapons leave behind.

    This echoed the concerns of satellite operators, who fear that objects in orbit moving at a speed of thousands of kilometres per hour in space could damage satellites or knock them out of service. 

    “Coming from the commercial community, we should be really concerned about activities like this. The space environment is not just for the military. And it’s not just for testing of anti-satellite capabilities”, President and co-founder of space consulting firm Lquinox Charity Weeden told The Verge, expressing concern at the normalisation of such tests signalled by the recent launch.

    READ MORE: India to Launch Military Satellite to Detect Enemy Radars, Sensors and Devices

    Despite the voiced alarm, Indian officials also said that as per India’s understanding, the launch does not violate any international laws or treaty obligations. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which regulates how countries should act in space, prohibits the use of weapons of mass destruction in orbit, but does not specify that missile technologies used for ASAT are banned. However, ASAT technology could still serve a military purpose as it, in theory, allows hitting not only hostile satellites, but also ballistic missiles, as The Verge points out. 


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