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Mission Shakti: All You Need to Know [Mains Article]

Through Mission Shakti, India has successfully demonstrated its capability to intercept a satellite in outer space based on indigenous technology and it now joins a select group of nations — USA, Russia and China — with a similar technology.
By IT's Mains Articles Team
August 02, 2019


  • What is Mission Shakti?
  • Motives behind conducting Test
  • What is Anti-satellite weapon (A-SAT)?
  • Which method was used in Mission Shakti?
  • How can A-SAT be used in war?
  • Significance of Mission Shakti for India
  • Which are other countries who has space warfare capability?
  • The Imminent Role of Nehru’s Government in Mission Shakti
  • Efforts done by India to comply with International regulations
  • The Outer Space Treaty
  • Transparency and Confidence Building Measures
  • Space Law Treaties and Principles
  • Kessler syndrome
  • Key Facts
  • Conclusion

Mission Shakti: All You Need to Know

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What is Mission Shakti?

  • The mission of shooting down a live satellite by an anti-satellite missile (A-SAT) targeted in the low earth orbit (LEO) on 27th March 2019 by India is known as Mission Shakti.


  • Mission Shakti is a joint programme of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  • The test, which India had announced in 2010 to develop a hit-to-kill A-SAT system, was fully successful and achieved all parameters as per plans.
  • The target destroyed by DRDO’s Ballistic Missile Defence interceptor (A-SAT missile) was an out of service Indian micro satellite launched by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 2014.
  • The anti-satellite missile test was conducted in the lower atmosphere to make sure that there is no space debris. Whatever wreckage is generated will decompose and fall back in the earth within weeks.

Motives behind conducting Test:

  • To verify that India has the capability to safeguard Indian space assets.
  • To provide boost to India’s space programme which is a critical backbone of India’s security, economic and social infrastructure.
  • In 2007, China had tested an ASAT that was capable of shooting down satellites at an altitude of over 800 kilometres in the lower earth orbit (LEO). Hence, this test was necessitated by the Chinese postures on ASAT.


What is Anti-satellite weapon (A-SAT)?

  • Anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) are space weapons designed to destroy satellites for strategic military purposes.
  • A-SAT capabilities were earlier developed by the United States and Soviet Union in 1950s as a dedicated system for defence against ballistic missiles.
  • Due to ineffectiveness of earlier A-SAT missiles, a co-orbital strategy, used by only Russia in mid 1960s, was carried out. In this, a weapon armed with explosives is launched into the same orbit as the target satellite and moves near enough to destroy it.
  • The U.S test the Air-Launched Miniature Vehicle (ALMV) in 1982 which is a two-staged missile. This missile targeted the satellite in low earth orbit and destroy it in a high-speed collision, a technique known as a “kinetic kill” or “hit-to-kill” strategy.
  • The Ground-based ASAT weapons based on directed electromagnetic energy were developed in 1980s by US and Russia.
  • In 2000, satellite Jamming was being developed which interferes with radio communications between a satellite and users on the ground as another potential A-SAT technology.


Which method was used in Mission Shakti?

  • Among Kinetic Kill, fly-by-tests and Jamming method, India chose ‘Kinetic Kill’ method to destroy live satellite.
  • ‘Kinetic Kill’ is a technology where India has developed its capability and used this method to destroy satellite as it meets the objectives set out in the mission.

What is Kinetic Kill vehicle?

Kinetic-Kill-vehicle IASToppers

  • A weapon using a non-explosive projectile moving at very high speed to destroy a target on impact due to its kinetic energy is called ‘Kinetic Kill Vehicle’.
  • The projectile may include homing sensors and on-board rockets to improve its accuracy, or it may follow a pre-set trajectory.

How can A-SAT be used in war?

  • ASATs can be used to intercept and jam communication or military satellites of enemy countries in the time of war and stop them from communicating with their soldiers.
  • It can also be used to access critical information about troop movements or incoming missiles.
  • The anti-satellite weapons can even undertake pellet cloud attacks on enemy’s low orbit satellites.
  • Other ASAT capabilities include cyber-attacks on space systems, Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) explosion devices, directed energy (laser based) weapons and targeted missiles for destruction of satellites to sabotage the enemy’s military operations.
  • The range of an ASAT is limited and depends on where it is launched from. Satellites above the range of 20,000 kilometres are out of range. The US and Russia have the capabilities of launching an ASAT from the ship, land and space, while India, presently, has used a land installation.

Significance of Mission Shakti for India:

  • India has tested and successfully demonstrated its capability to interdict and intercept a satellite in outer space based on complete indigenous technology.
  • India has become the fourth country after the US, Russia and China to acquire the capability of space warfare.
  • Space is being turned into a battlefront, making counter-space capabilities critical. In this context, India’s successful destruction with an A-SAT weapon is significant.
  • The acquisition of this A-SAT technology is also expected to use for domestic and international commercial purposes.


Which are other countries who has space warfare capability?

  • The United States was the first nation to build space warfare capability developed in late 1950s. The erstwhile USSR followed the US and had acquired this capability by early 1960s.
  • China was the third country to launch A-SAT. China conducted its first A-SAT test in 2007.
  • However, no country has used an A-SAT against another nation till date. In all the instances, the nation’s testing anti-satellite missiles have targeted one of their defunct satellites to showcase their space warfare capabilities.

The Imminent Role of Nehru’s Government in Mission Shakti:

  • Jawaharlal Nehru, Former Prime Minister of India, established Indian National Committee for Space Research as part of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).


  • Under Nehru, the first and critical phase of the Indian space programme was initiated by the establishment of apparatus for managing space-related activities. He created a programme for overseas training of Indian technologists and scientists.
  • In 1963, his government also established the sounding rocket programme known as the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launch (TERL) Centre in Thiruvananthapuram.
  • These launches, combined with overseas training, were invaluable for Indian scientists in gaining experience about the complexities of rocket technology that were used in Mission Shakti.

Efforts made by India to comply with International regulations:

  • India has mentioned that this test was in accordance with the main space treaty named: The Outer Space Treaty.
  • India supported United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 69/32 on No First Placement of Weapons on Outer Space.
  • India supports the substantive consideration of the issue of Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) in the Conference on Disarmament where it has been on the agenda since 1982.
  • According to Indian government, India is against the weaponization of Outer Space and support international efforts to reinforce the safety and security of space based assets.

The Outer Space Treaty:

The Outer Space Treaty IASToppers

  • The Outer Space Treaty (Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space) is a treaty that forms the basis of international space law.
  • India singed it in 1967 and ratifies it in 1982.
  • Among its principles, it bars any country from placing weapons of mass destruction in Earth orbit or installing them on any celestial body.
  • It exclusively limits the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes and prohibits their use for testing weapons of any kind.
  • However, the treaty does not prohibit the placement of conventional weapons in orbit hence some highly destructive attack strategies is still potentially allowable.
  • The treaty explicitly forbids any government to claim a celestial resource such as the Moon or a planet. However, the country that launches a space object retains jurisdiction and control over that object and is also liable for damages caused by its space object.

Transparency and Confidence Building Measures:

  • Transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) are a set of tools designed to display, predict and discipline countries’ behaviour with respect to maintaining the security of space.

Transparency and Confidence Building Measures (TCBMs) by India:

  • Participation in Inter Agency Space Debris Coordination (IADC) activities with regard to space debris management
  • Undertaking SOPA (Space Object Proximity Awareness and COLA (Collision Avoidance) Analysis
  • Numerous international cooperation activities, including hosting the UN affiliated Centre for Space and Science Technology Education in Asia and Pacific.
  • Registering space objects with the UN register.

Space Law Treaties and Principles:

  • The UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space is the forum for the development of international space law. The Committee has concluded five international treaties and five sets of principles on space-related activities.

Five United Nations treaties on outer space:

The “Outer Space Treaty”:

  • Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.
  • Adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 2222, entered into force in 1967.

The “Rescue Agreement”:

  • Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space.
  • Adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 2777, entered into force in 1968.

The “Liability Convention”:

  • Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects.
  • Adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 2777, entered into force in 1972.

The “Registration Convention”:

  • Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space.
  • Adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution, entered into force in 1976.

The “Moon Agreement:

  • Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies
  • Adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 34/68,, entered into force in 1984.

Five legal principles:

  • The Declaration of Legal Principles: Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of countries in the Exploration and uses of Outer Space.
  • The Broadcasting Principles: The Principles Governing the Use by Countries of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting.
  • The Remote Sensing Principles: The Principles Relating to Remote Sensing of the Earth from Outer Space.
  • The Nuclear Power Sources Principles: The Principles Relevant to the use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space.
  • The Benefits Declaration: The Declaration on International Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for the Benefit and in the Interest of All Countries.

Kessler syndrome:


Transparency-and-Confidence-Building-Measures-(TCBMs)-by-India Mission Shakti: All You Need to Know

  • The Kessler syndrome is a scenario in which the density of objects in low Earth orbit (LEO) is high enough that collisions between objects could cause a cascade where each collision generates space debris that increases the likelihood of further collisions.
  • The effects of this effect is that the distribution of debris in orbit could render space activities and the use of satellites in specific orbits impractical for many generations.
  • It was proposed by the NASA scientist Donald Kessler in 1978.

Key Facts:

  • On June 18, 2018, US signed a policy directive on traffic management in space and advocated for a “Space Force” as an independent and co-equal military branch.
  • The women development scheme by Odisha government is also known as ‘Mission Shakti’.


  • The Mission Shakti was carried out after India acquired the required degree of confidence to ensure its success. However, India has no intention of entering into an arms race in outer space.
  • Several of the government’s programmes such as the Atal Innovation Mission stress the importance of scientific discoveries and inventions at the school and other levels.
  • However, the risk of debris being collide with International Space station (ISS) or other satellites could hamper the glory of this mission. However, India said that all the debris would be decompose in 45 days.


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