'Interceptor can travel to 1,000 km in space'

Chairman of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) G Satheesh Reddy on Saturday said it was feasible to target multiple satellites (of the enemy) by having multiple weapon launches, and added that India has technology to hit at targets that are 1,000 km in space.

In other words the current demonstrated prowess of hitting at satellite some 300 km above the earth can be extended.

Addressing a press conference following a permission to do so from the Election Commission, the DRDO Chairman said, “Hit to kill was achieved against live satellite with an accuracy with less than 10 centimetre. This is on par with the best reported world wide.” India had conducted its ASAT test on February 27.

On being asked if multiple satellites can be hit, Dr Reddy said, “It depends how many are we tracking and it would require multiple launches. It’s feasible.”

“The fear from the debris generated is not much, he said. The first 10 days are critical and those have passed off. The entire debris will decay in 45 days,” he said when asked about the apprehension expressed by NASA about the debris.

“We don’t need more tests in this orbit (some 300 km above the earth) to prove it again,” Reddy said. The guidance and control algorithm has been developed to do interception at 1,000 km above the earth. This can cover almost all low earth orbit, including those orbits used by military satellites, Reddy added.

Notably, China has done ASAT tests at some 800 km in space.

On India’s test, he said a three-stage interceptor with two-stage solid fuel propellant was used. The accuracy has to be very high and satellite is moving at 10 km per second. All critical technologies for the ASAT test were developed indigenously. About 90 per cent is local, some 150 scientists worked around the clock and some 2,000 components were sourced from 50 private industry.

Discussion started on the ASAT test in 2014 and development started in 2016, Reddy said. In the past in 2012, the then chairman of DRDO, VK Saraswat, had said technology for the ASAT can be proved.

This morning, there was a meeting with eminent scientists of the country to inform them about the ASAT test done on February 27.

The low earth orbit – some 300 to 600 km above earth—is one of tiers of space satellites and usually has the spy and military satellites. The next upper tier – some 800-1,200 km above the earth—has tracking satellites that study geo-spatial and marine life. The next upper tier – 20,000 km above – has the satellites which provide GPS signals. The highest tier—some 36,000 km above – has the communication satellites.

So far, technology is hindered and no missile fired from ground can travel beyond the first two tiers and no missile can be fired from an existing space-based platform.