SOURCE: MANJUNATH REDDY/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
It was in September 2016, Joint Space Operations Center which is the organization responsible for performing all of the orbit determination activity necessary to maintain the US space catalog reported that they have identified a debris-generating event near India’s RISAT-1 and said that nearly 16 pieces were identified and Cause of this event remained unknown, yet ISRO responded by saying that RISAT-1 had some anomalies but was functioning normally.
In July 2017, RISAT-1 was declared non-operational by ISRO and also was taken out of active Satellite list without much explanation why the satellite was pulled out and reports of debris spotted around the satellite actually belonged to the satellite itself and if true what caused them in the first place? Since ISRO never officially acknowledged they were any issues with RISAT-1 or why it was pulled out of service and why debris was found near it. it’s hard to say that this event had nothing to do with DRDO getting clearance to develop its own Anti-Satellite Missile System around the same time period in 2016-17.
RISAT-1 was launched in 2012 and had completed nearly 4.6 years in space successfully. RISAT-1 was India’s first Satellite to carry indigenous synthetic aperture radar payload which allowed its camera to operate both during day and night under all weather conditions. RISAT-1 going offline without proper explanation and debris spotted around it does create a suspicion of doubts that it might have been targeted by a directed-energy weapon or kinetic anti-satellite missile by rivals in the region on purpose and former scenario is most likely could have been the case, since use of Kill Vehicle could have been easier to spot by many countries who monitor and track all space-based activities .
Beijing and Moscow are Two countries who are actively developing ground-based laser weapon system which can disrupt, degrade, or damage satellites and their sensors specifically against the low-Earth orbit satellites. Russia and China both are also capable of destroying space targets in low-Earth orbit using anti-satellite missile system and will soon be deploying a ground-based laser system which can disable spy satellites up to 600km in space.
Beijing and Moscow are also working developing Space and Aircraft based electronic warfare systems which can disrupt communications between the satellite and Ground-based monitoring stations over directed-energy weapons and “kinetic” anti-satellite missiles which are already under development. last year, Pentagon had reported that one of its spy Satellite was Lazer blinded while passing over China, while no damage was caused to the Spy Satellite , Pentagon reported to US Administration that a Chinese Ground-based Laser System might have been used to show off its anti-satellite capabilities and system is most likely will go online as soon as 2020.
The US, China, and Russia all have started working on multiple anti-satellite weapon systems which will be they plan to deploy in near future and are also working out a Space NPT among themselves create an international mechanism that would ban additional ASAT tests. Now that India has demonstrated its ASAT capability, India will need to be included in that elite group now.
While We may never know what actually happened to RISAT-1, Was it disabled by external forces to show how vulnerable India’s space assets were to the Indian government ? or it suffered from the hit from other space debris which caused a “fragmentation event” where pieces appeared to have broken off from the RISAT-1?. Well, India at least now has the capability to knock out a satellite from low-Earth orbit and also ensure that it has a say in an elite group with other established space powers to ensure that space remains weapons-free.
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