Saturday, 28 December 2019

Nine months after the Indian ASAT test: what is left?

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Yesterday it was 9 months ago that India conducted its first succesful Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test, destroying it's MICROSAT-R satellite on-orbit with a PDV Mark II missile fired from Abdul Kalam Island. I earlier wrote several blogposts about it, as well as an in-depth OSINT analysis in The Diplomat (in which I showed that the Indian narrative on how this test was conducted, can be questioned).

Over the past year, I have periodically written an update on the debris from this test remaining on orbit. In this post I again revisit the situation, nine months after the test.

At the time of the test, the Indian DRDO claimed that all debris would have reentered within 45 days after the test. As I pointed out shortly after the test in my blogpost here and in my article in The Diplomat, that was a very unrealistic estimate. This was underlined in the following months.

A total of 125 larger debris fragments have been catalogued as well-tracked. Over 70 percent of these larger tracked debris pieces from the test were still on-orbit 45 days after the test (the moment they all should have been gone according to the Indian DRDO!).

Now, nine months after the test, 18 of these debris fragments, or 14 percent, are still on orbit. Their orbits are shown in red in the image in top of this post (the white orbit is that of the ISS, shown as reference).

In the diagram below, the number of objects per week reentering  since the ASAT test is shown in blue. In grey, is a future prediction for the reentry of the remaining 14% of debris. The last pieces might linger untill mid-2023:

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All but four of the remaining pieces currently have apogee altitudes well above the orbital altitude of the ISS, in the altitude range of many operational satellites. Nine of them have apogee altitudes above 1000 km, one of them up to 1760 km. Their perigees are all below ~280 km.

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