Mission Shakti

Sub Title : New Dimension to India's Space Prowess

Issues Details : Vol 13 Issue Mar/Apr 2019

Author : Ashwani Sharma & P Binuraj

Page No. : 12

Category : Geostrategy

: April 22, 2019

Shakti Key Facts

Target Satellite: Target Satellite was placed in low earth orbit at 300 kms altitude in January 2019.

Interceptor Missile: The bullet shape missile is powered by a 2 stage booster engine

Launch to Strike: Total duration from launch to strike was approx. 170 seconds (2 minutes, 50 seconds).

Kill Mechanism: Kinetic kill destroyed the satellite, exhibiting high order of precision as the relative velocity between the satellite and the interceptor would be of the order of 10 km per second.

Indigenous Project: Concept, technologies used and integration is entirely indigenous, driven by DRDO.

Select Club: India is only the fourth country to join the select club that includes, Russia, US and China.

Project Duration: It took DRDO less than a year of planning, design and integration to execute the entire process, after approval was accorded.

Mission Secrecy: Complete confidentiality was maintained till the time of execution when the interceptor was assembled.

In the journey of every nation there are moments that bring utmost pride and have a historic impact on generations to come. One such moment is today,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an unprecedented broadcast to the nation on television, radio and social media. Earlier in the morning, the Prime Minister spoke with DRDO scientists at the launch site and congratulated them for the historic feat.

India, on March 27 2019, destroyed a low-orbiting satellite in a missile test that puts the country in the space “Super League”. Mission Shakti, which was led by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, is aimed at strengthening India’s overall security and provides India a place of pride in the niche space.

“Mission Shakti was a highly complex one, conducted at extremely high speed with remarkable precision. It shows the remarkable dexterity of India’s outstanding scientists and the success of our space programme”, Modi said. “Shooting down a low earth orbit satellite is a rare achievement for the country,” the PM added.

India is only the fourth country to acquire such a specialised and modern capability after the US, Russia and China. As the entire effort is indigenous, India stands tall as a space power.

Mission Shakti, an anti-satellite missile test (ASAT), was conducted from Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam Island launch complex. The satellite used in the mission was one of India’s existing satellites operating in lower orbit. Successful kinetic kill of the target is especially significant as India has tested and successfully demonstrated its capability to interdict and intercept a satellite in outer space based on indigenous technologies.

India’s entry into the elite club of nations possessing the Anti Satellite Missile capability is a Feather in the Cap for DRDO and particularly its indigenous Missile Development Programme. The mission was unique in many aspects as it was achieved by integrating technologies developed for existing projects like BMD and AD with a number of DRDO labs contributing to develop a suitable launcher and the interceptor missile.

The project was executed in a record time of less than a year from the time it was given a Go Ahead. The missile has been developed and integrated completely with in house technology and components which also demonstrated the capability of India to be self-reliant in niche technologies and its Make in India mission. It was also important to keep the mission under wraps since the time it was conceived since any information regarding such an endeavour would have met with stiff resistance from many countries and sustained diplomatic pressure. The secrecy associated with such a project also required DRDO to put in place highest degree of quality control, precise calculations and algorithms as well as excessive testing by independent agencies to achieve a fool proof launch and accurate hit.

The mission was undertaken by DRDO in coordination with ISRO which placed the target satellite in Low Earth Orbit earlier in the year.  DRDO developed the Interceptor missile by integrating a two-stage booster with a kill vehicle in the front, giving it a “Bullet” shape. The booster had the capability to take the kill vehicle into LEO (low Earth Orbit) occupied by the target satellite which is at a much larger height as required for an Anti-Ballistic Missile Interceptor.

A kinetic attack by the kill vehicle requires accurate tracking of the satellite, precise launch sequence and accurate homing of the kill vehicle in the final stages. The fact that the entire mission lasted about 170 seconds from lift off with the relative velocity of satellite and missile likely to be approximately 10 km/second leaves absolutely no margin of error in the entire process. The payload portion of the satellite normally presents a small cross sectional area of the target to the seeker of the kill vehicle for achieving a kinetic hit.

DRDO’s Ballistic Missile Defence interceptor was used for interception and destruction as It happens to be a part of the ongoing ballistic missile defence programme. The interceptor has been specifically developed with special features and guidance system for the purpose. There are many other ways to demonstrate ASAT capabilities such as ‘high energy beams’, ‘fly-by tests’ and Jamming. But India has used the particular technology of Kinetic Kill to destroy the target and minimize debris. This is also a technology in which we have developed indigenous capability. The test was done in the lower atmosphere to ensure that there is no space debris. Whatever debris is generated will decay, burn and fall back onto the earth within weeks.

India has a long standing and rapidly growing space programme  which has expanded rapidly in the last five years. The Mangalyaan Mission to Mars was successfully launched earlier. Thereafter, the government has sanctioned the Gaganyaan Mission which will take Indian astronauts to outer space. In recent years India has launched a number of satellites, including many of friendly foreign countries. As part of the programme, India has undertaken 102 spacecraft missions consisting of communication satellites, earth observation satellites, experimental satellites, navigation satellites, apart from satellites meant for scientific research and exploration, academic studies and other small satellites. India’s space programme is a critical backbone of India’s security, economic and social infrastructure.

The Outer Space Treaty prohibits only weapons of mass destruction in outer space, not ordinary weapons. India expects to play a role in the future in drafting of international laws on prevention of an arms race in outer space including inter alia on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space in its capacity as a major space faring nation with proven space technology. India is not in violation of any international law or treaty.

Mission Shakti was undoubtedly one of the most complex projects undertaken by DRDO which it executed to perfection within a short span of time and is a major boost to India’s quest for self reliance in defence and space technologies.