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The First Indian attempt at ASAT failed in February 2019

The Deterrent

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https://thediplomat.com/2019/04/exc...-failed-anti-satellite-test-in-february-2019/

Exclusive: India Conducted a Failed Anti-Satellite Test in February 2019

India succeeded in destroying a satellite in low earth orbit in March, but that wasn’t its first attempted ASAT test.


By Ankit Panda
March 30, 2019

India’s Defense Research and Development Organization carried out a failed first attempt to destroy a satellite in low-earth orbit on February 12, The Diplomat has learned. The test took place from Abdul Kalam Island off the eastern coast of India.

According to U.S. government sources with knowledge of military intelligence assessments, the United States observed a failed Indian anti-satellite intercept test attempt in February. The solid-fueled interceptor missile used during that test “failed after about 30 seconds of flight,” one source told The Diplomat.

That test is believed to have been India’s first-ever attempt at using a direct-ascent, hit-to-kill interceptor to destroy a satellite—a feat that was completed successfully on March 27, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a successful test in a national address. The first Indian anti-satellite test was dubbed “Mission Shakti.”

It is unclear if the February 12 failed test attempted relied on the same missile and interceptor as the successful March 27 test. According to one U.S. government source, the Indian side had notified the United States of its intent to carry out an experimental weapon test in early February, but without confirming that it would be an anti-satellite test. “They gave us a vague heads up,” the source said.

The first failed Indian test, however, provided enough information for U.S. military intelligence to conclude that New Delhi was attempting an anti-satellite test using a new kind of direct-ascent kinetic interceptor.

India’s anti-satellite test resembles tests conducted in 2007 and 2008 by China and the United States respectively. All these tests have used the kinetic force of an interceptor to collide with a satellite moving rapidly in low earth orbit, destroying it completely and creating orbital debris.

India’s successful intercept took place at an altitude much lower than China’s 2007 test, which generated more than 2000 pieces of significant debris, hundreds of which will remain in orbit for decades. The approximately 282 km altitude of India’s intercept was closer to the 240 km altitude of the United States’ 2008 shootdown of the USA-193 satellite.

U.S. government sources that spoke to The Diplomat were unable to confirm if Microsat-R, the 740 kg satellite India had launched on January 25 and shot down on March 27, was the intended target for the February 12 test attempt. Microsat-R was the target satellite shot down during the March 27 test.

However, a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued by Indian civilian authorities with effect between February 10 and February 12 demarcated a restriction zone off the eastern coast of India that matches the restriction zone described in another NOTAM issued ahead of the March 27 test attempt, suggesting that the very same satellite was the intended target. The February NOTAM warned of the “launching of experimental flight vehicle,” but did not specify that any low earth orbit objects would be held at risk.


Indian NOTAM with effect between February 10, 2019, at 5:15 a.m. to February 12, 2019, at 6:45 a.m..

Following India’s successful anti-satellite test on March 27, the U.S. State Department released a statement noting that it “saw PM Modi’s statement that announced India’s anti-satellite test.” The statement added support for a strong U.S.-India relationship, noting that “As part of our strong strategic partnership with India, we will continue to pursue shared interests in space and scientific and technical cooperation, including collaboration on safety and security in space.”

“The issue of space debris is an important concern for the U.S. government. We took note of Indian government statements that the test was designed to address space debris issues,” the statement continued. In the aftermath of the test, U.S. Strategic Command began tracking more than 200 debris objects.

The United States is still assessing the total scope of the debris created by the Indian test. India has claimed that it expects all debris from the March 27 test to burn up in the earth’s atmosphere in 45 days.

A Pre-Election Controversy

Politically, had the first attempted Indian anti-satellite test succeeded, Modi might have avoided the scrutiny that came with a national address to announce the March 27 successful test so close to the opening of polling for India’s 2019 general elections, which will see some 900 million Indian voters select candidates for the lower house of India’s bicameral parliament.

Beginning on March 10, the Indian Election Commission put in place the Model Code of Conduct, which restricts the kind of policy announcements the incumbent government can make in an attempt to prevent unfair attempts to seize an electoral advantage before the elections.

Indian opposition parties claimed that Modi’s announcement of the anti-satellite test was a violation of the code. Two days after his announcement, the Electoral Commission determined that Modi had not violated the code of the conduct with his national address announcing the successful test.

The test attempt in early February also pre-dated the Pulwama terror attack on February 14, which killed 40 Indian paramilitary personnel and precipitated a major crisis with Pakistan that culminated in late February with Indian air strikes on Pakistani soil.

UPDATES (by the author):

-One news report described it as a test against an ''electronic'' target:
http://www.newindianexpress.com/sta...nterceptor-missile-flight-tested-1938253.html

-Also, note that Microsat-R passed over the Mar. 27 intercept point on Feb. 12 at 5:40 UTC/11:10AM IST (h/t @Marco_Langbroek for checking that for me). Guess what time DRDO told Indian press the launch happened?

-Basically, to believe DRDO’s account that the Feb. 12 test was conducted against an electronic target to verify PDV’s BMD performance, the precise timing of Microsat-R above at T=0 and the precise match between the Feb/Mar NOTAMs would have to be a *total coincidence*.

-Second independent check on the location of Microsat-R on Feb. 12 at DRDO’s launch time from the always reliable @planet4589.

-Solid booster failure probably, which DRDO has plenty of experience dealing with by now.
 

randomradio

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Exclusive: India Conducted a Failed Anti-Satellite Test in February 2019

India succeeded in destroying a satellite in low earth orbit in March, but that wasn’t its first attempted ASAT test.


By Ankit Panda
March 30, 2019

India’s Defense Research and Development Organization carried out a failed first attempt to destroy a satellite in low-earth orbit on February 12, The Diplomat has learned. The test took place from Abdul Kalam Island off the eastern coast of India.

According to U.S. government sources with knowledge of military intelligence assessments, the United States observed a failed Indian anti-satellite intercept test attempt in February. The solid-fueled interceptor missile used during that test “failed after about 30 seconds of flight,” one source told The Diplomat.

That test is believed to have been India’s first-ever attempt at using a direct-ascent, hit-to-kill interceptor to destroy a satellite—a feat that was completed successfully on March 27, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a successful test in a national address. The first Indian anti-satellite test was dubbed “Mission Shakti.”

It is unclear if the February 12 failed test attempted relied on the same missile and interceptor as the successful March 27 test. According to one U.S. government source, the Indian side had notified the United States of its intent to carry out an experimental weapon test in early February, but without confirming that it would be an anti-satellite test. “They gave us a vague heads up,” the source said.

The first failed Indian test, however, provided enough information for U.S. military intelligence to conclude that New Delhi was attempting an anti-satellite test using a new kind of direct-ascent kinetic interceptor.

India’s anti-satellite test resembles tests conducted in 2007 and 2008 by China and the United States respectively. All these tests have used the kinetic force of an interceptor to collide with a satellite moving rapidly in low earth orbit, destroying it completely and creating orbital debris.

India’s successful intercept took place at an altitude much lower than China’s 2007 test, which generated more than 2000 pieces of significant debris, hundreds of which will remain in orbit for decades. The approximately 282 km altitude of India’s intercept was closer to the 240 km altitude of the United States’ 2008 shootdown of the USA-193 satellite.

U.S. government sources that spoke to The Diplomat were unable to confirm if Microsat-R, the 740 kg satellite India had launched on January 25 and shot down on March 27, was the intended target for the February 12 test attempt. Microsat-R was the target satellite shot down during the March 27 test.

However, a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued by Indian civilian authorities with effect between February 10 and February 12 demarcated a restriction zone off the eastern coast of India that matches the restriction zone described in another NOTAM issued ahead of the March 27 test attempt, suggesting that the very same satellite was the intended target. The February NOTAM warned of the “launching of experimental flight vehicle,” but did not specify that any low earth orbit objects would be held at risk.


Indian NOTAM with effect between February 10, 2019, at 5:15 a.m. to February 12, 2019, at 6:45 a.m..

Following India’s successful anti-satellite test on March 27, the U.S. State Department released a statement noting that it “saw PM Modi’s statement that announced India’s anti-satellite test.” The statement added support for a strong U.S.-India relationship, noting that “As part of our strong strategic partnership with India, we will continue to pursue shared interests in space and scientific and technical cooperation, including collaboration on safety and security in space.”

“The issue of space debris is an important concern for the U.S. government. We took note of Indian government statements that the test was designed to address space debris issues,” the statement continued. In the aftermath of the test, U.S. Strategic Command began tracking more than 200 debris objects.

The United States is still assessing the total scope of the debris created by the Indian test. India has claimed that it expects all debris from the March 27 test to burn up in the earth’s atmosphere in 45 days.

A Pre-Election Controversy

Politically, had the first attempted Indian anti-satellite test succeeded, Modi might have avoided the scrutiny that came with a national address to announce the March 27 successful test so close to the opening of polling for India’s 2019 general elections, which will see some 900 million Indian voters select candidates for the lower house of India’s bicameral parliament.

Beginning on March 10, the Indian Election Commission put in place the Model Code of Conduct, which restricts the kind of policy announcements the incumbent government can make in an attempt to prevent unfair attempts to seize an electoral advantage before the elections.

Indian opposition parties claimed that Modi’s announcement of the anti-satellite test was a violation of the code. Two days after his announcement, the Electoral Commission determined that Modi had not violated the code of the conduct with his national address announcing the successful test.

The test attempt in early February also pre-dated the Pulwama terror attack on February 14, which killed 40 Indian paramilitary personnel and precipitated a major crisis with Pakistan that culminated in late February with Indian air strikes on Pakistani soil.

UPDATES (by the author):

-One news report described it as a test against an ''electronic'' target:
http://www.newindianexpress.com/sta...nterceptor-missile-flight-tested-1938253.html

-Also, note that Microsat-R passed over the Mar. 27 intercept point on Feb. 12 at 5:40 UTC/11:10AM IST (h/t @Marco_Langbroek for checking that for me). Guess what time DRDO told Indian press the launch happened?

-Basically, to believe DRDO’s account that the Feb. 12 test was conducted against an electronic target to verify PDV’s BMD performance, the precise timing of Microsat-R above at T=0 and the precise match between the Feb/Mar NOTAMs would have to be a *total coincidence*.

-Second independent check on the location of Microsat-R on Feb. 12 at DRDO’s launch time from the always reliable @planet4589.

-Solid booster failure probably, which DRDO has plenty of experience dealing with by now.
On 12th Feb, a PDV test was conducted.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/sta...nterceptor-missile-flight-tested-1938253.html
 
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Cobra Arbok

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https://thediplomat.com/2019/04/exc...-failed-anti-satellite-test-in-february-2019/

Exclusive: India Conducted a Failed Anti-Satellite Test in February 2019

India succeeded in destroying a satellite in low earth orbit in March, but that wasn’t its first attempted ASAT test.


By Ankit Panda
March 30, 2019

India’s Defense Research and Development Organization carried out a failed first attempt to destroy a satellite in low-earth orbit on February 12, The Diplomat has learned. The test took place from Abdul Kalam Island off the eastern coast of India.

According to U.S. government sources with knowledge of military intelligence assessments, the United States observed a failed Indian anti-satellite intercept test attempt in February. The solid-fueled interceptor missile used during that test “failed after about 30 seconds of flight,” one source told The Diplomat.

That test is believed to have been India’s first-ever attempt at using a direct-ascent, hit-to-kill interceptor to destroy a satellite—a feat that was completed successfully on March 27, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a successful test in a national address. The first Indian anti-satellite test was dubbed “Mission Shakti.”

It is unclear if the February 12 failed test attempted relied on the same missile and interceptor as the successful March 27 test. According to one U.S. government source, the Indian side had notified the United States of its intent to carry out an experimental weapon test in early February, but without confirming that it would be an anti-satellite test. “They gave us a vague heads up,” the source said.

The first failed Indian test, however, provided enough information for U.S. military intelligence to conclude that New Delhi was attempting an anti-satellite test using a new kind of direct-ascent kinetic interceptor.

India’s anti-satellite test resembles tests conducted in 2007 and 2008 by China and the United States respectively. All these tests have used the kinetic force of an interceptor to collide with a satellite moving rapidly in low earth orbit, destroying it completely and creating orbital debris.

India’s successful intercept took place at an altitude much lower than China’s 2007 test, which generated more than 2000 pieces of significant debris, hundreds of which will remain in orbit for decades. The approximately 282 km altitude of India’s intercept was closer to the 240 km altitude of the United States’ 2008 shootdown of the USA-193 satellite.

U.S. government sources that spoke to The Diplomat were unable to confirm if Microsat-R, the 740 kg satellite India had launched on January 25 and shot down on March 27, was the intended target for the February 12 test attempt. Microsat-R was the target satellite shot down during the March 27 test.

However, a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued by Indian civilian authorities with effect between February 10 and February 12 demarcated a restriction zone off the eastern coast of India that matches the restriction zone described in another NOTAM issued ahead of the March 27 test attempt, suggesting that the very same satellite was the intended target. The February NOTAM warned of the “launching of experimental flight vehicle,” but did not specify that any low earth orbit objects would be held at risk.


Indian NOTAM with effect between February 10, 2019, at 5:15 a.m. to February 12, 2019, at 6:45 a.m..

Following India’s successful anti-satellite test on March 27, the U.S. State Department released a statement noting that it “saw PM Modi’s statement that announced India’s anti-satellite test.” The statement added support for a strong U.S.-India relationship, noting that “As part of our strong strategic partnership with India, we will continue to pursue shared interests in space and scientific and technical cooperation, including collaboration on safety and security in space.”

“The issue of space debris is an important concern for the U.S. government. We took note of Indian government statements that the test was designed to address space debris issues,” the statement continued. In the aftermath of the test, U.S. Strategic Command began tracking more than 200 debris objects.

The United States is still assessing the total scope of the debris created by the Indian test. India has claimed that it expects all debris from the March 27 test to burn up in the earth’s atmosphere in 45 days.

A Pre-Election Controversy

Politically, had the first attempted Indian anti-satellite test succeeded, Modi might have avoided the scrutiny that came with a national address to announce the March 27 successful test so close to the opening of polling for India’s 2019 general elections, which will see some 900 million Indian voters select candidates for the lower house of India’s bicameral parliament.

Beginning on March 10, the Indian Election Commission put in place the Model Code of Conduct, which restricts the kind of policy announcements the incumbent government can make in an attempt to prevent unfair attempts to seize an electoral advantage before the elections.

Indian opposition parties claimed that Modi’s announcement of the anti-satellite test was a violation of the code. Two days after his announcement, the Electoral Commission determined that Modi had not violated the code of the conduct with his national address announcing the successful test.

The test attempt in early February also pre-dated the Pulwama terror attack on February 14, which killed 40 Indian paramilitary personnel and precipitated a major crisis with Pakistan that culminated in late February with Indian air strikes on Pakistani soil.

UPDATES (by the author):

-One news report described it as a test against an ''electronic'' target:
http://www.newindianexpress.com/sta...nterceptor-missile-flight-tested-1938253.html

-Also, note that Microsat-R passed over the Mar. 27 intercept point on Feb. 12 at 5:40 UTC/11:10AM IST (h/t @Marco_Langbroek for checking that for me). Guess what time DRDO told Indian press the launch happened?

-Basically, to believe DRDO’s account that the Feb. 12 test was conducted against an electronic target to verify PDV’s BMD performance, the precise timing of Microsat-R above at T=0 and the precise match between the Feb/Mar NOTAMs would have to be a *total coincidence*.

-Second independent check on the location of Microsat-R on Feb. 12 at DRDO’s launch time from the always reliable @planet4589.

-Solid booster failure probably, which DRDO has plenty of experience dealing with by now.
This confirms that the missile was under development for years and had been cleared for testing in late 2018/early 2019 long before any of this recent drama happened. it is just an unfortunate coincidence that this test occurred during the middle of the Pulwama/Balakot saga and was thus viewed in the context of the Indo-Pak tensions and thus politicized as such by both parties. @Joe Shearer @Oscar @waz
 

The Deterrent

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Have you read the entire post?

This confirms that the missile was under development for years and had been cleared for testing in late 2018/early 2019 long before any of this recent drama happened. it is just an unfortunate coincidence that this test occurred during the middle of the Pulwama/Balakot saga and was thus viewed in the context of the Indo-Pak tensions and thus politicized as such by both parties. @Joe Shearer @Oscar @waz
Agreed that it was planned ahead. You should notice that Microsat-R was launched in the end of January, which means it was designated to be the target from the beginning. However, the fact that the test was not called off or postponed for a later-than-election date, speaks volumes. The objective was to conduct it before the elections, period.
 

randomradio

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Have you read the entire post?
Sure. It's possible that the PDV test on the 12th was actually an ASAT test. But then, it's also possible that it was only a PDV test.

It's actually a bit hard to believe we failed the test the first time and then managed to rectify the faults and then test again just a month later. I would have believed it if the test happened a year after it first failed, maybe even a few months. I mean, it will take a month or more just to get all the data together for reasons of failure. Even a CoI for an air crash with debris takes months.

Logic goes against the article. So if you want actual confirmation, then you will have to wait for official sources to say it. Also, most of that article is more like Modi-bashing than anything else, particularly that thing about model code of conduct, which does not apply for national security.
 

The Deterrent

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Sure. It's possible that the PDV test on the 12th was actually an ASAT test. But then, it's also possible that it was only a PDV test.

It's actually a bit hard to believe we failed the test the first time and then managed to rectify the faults and then test again just a month later. I would have believed it if the test happened a year after it first failed, maybe even a few months. I mean, it will take a month or more just to get all the data together for reasons of failure. Even a CoI for an air crash with debris takes months.

Logic goes against the article. So if you want actual confirmation, then you will have to wait for official sources to say it. Also, most of that article is more like Modi-bashing than anything else, particularly that thing about model code of conduct, which does not apply for national security.
Your assumptions regarding difficulties of testing again are misplaced:
1. The data is readily available via onboard telemetry. Contrary to air crashes, there is no black-box as the test vehicle is DESIGNED to transmit EVERY piece of valuable data for analysis, instantly.
2. Simple failures, like the past of solid-fuel motors, are easy to diagnose (within hours). Since all the data is already available, it takes days (at most) to arrive at a conclusion.
3. Considering that PDV Mk-II uses a K-4 SLBM booster (already in production) and an extensively tested (and limited produced) upper-stage of PDV Mk-I, its not hard to put the two available components together again on a short notice.

For a similar case, read up on SpaceX Falcon-1's last failure, and their turnaround time for diagnosing and building another rocket. Keep in mind that it was a tiny private company at the time, dealing with complex liquid-fuel engines.

Its not Modi-bashing, it is a piece based on evidence-backed conclusions. Technical definitions of 'national security' do little do justify your narrative when afterwards Modi claims to have done a 'surgical strike' in space, at a political rally.
 
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Salza

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Have you read the entire post?


Agreed that it was planned ahead. You should notice that Microsat-R was launched in the end of January, which means it was designated to be the target from the beginning. However, the fact that the test was not called off or postponed for a later-than-election date, speaks volumes. The objective was to conduct it before the elections, period.
So entire Indian state machinery, media, army , semi private organizations are working together to make Modi win elections.
 

The Deterrent

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So entire Indian state machinery, media, army , semi private organizations are working together to make Modi win elections.
I wouldn't theorize that without a lot of more evidence, however it does seem like this election is witnessing an unprecedented amount of politicizing of India's Armed Forces and its military prowess by the current government, for electoral gains.
 

randomradio

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Your assumptions regarding difficulties of testing again are misplaced:
1. The data is readily available via onboard telemetry. Contrary to air crashes, there is no black-box as the test vehicle is DESIGNED to transmit EVERY piece of valuable data for analysis, instantly.
2. A simpler failure, like the past of solid-fuel motors, are easy to diagnose (within hours). Since all the data is already available, it takes days (at most) to arrive at a conclusion.
3. Considering that PDV Mk-II uses a K-4 SLBM booster (already in production) and an extensively tested (and limited produced) upper-stage of PDV Mk-I, its not hard to put the two available components together again on a short notice.

For a similar case, read up on SpaceX Falcon-1's last failure, and their turnaround time for diagnosing and building another rocket. Keep in mind that it was a tiny private company at the time, dealing with complex liquid-fuel engines.
Okay, it's possible that it was an ASAT test. But I'm more inclined to believe it was an ASAT test against an electronic target as a trial run before the main show. Although I would wait for confirmation before deciding it succeeded or failed. I'm sure the govt will reveal more details in the near future.

Its not Modi-bashing, it is a piece based on evidence-backed conclusions. Technical definitions of 'national security' do little do justify your narrative when afterwards Modi claims to have done a 'surgical strike' in space, at a political rally.
It is Modi-bashing considering a technical article has reduced itself into a political piece.

https://economictimes.indiatimes.co...on-on-mission-shakti/articleshow/68626128.cms

National security is exempt from MCC. Modi can talk about it how much ever he wants to during election time.

Anyhow, what do you think of the overall upgrade to our BMD? With this missile, we will be able to shoot down Pakistani MRBMs in mid-course as well. And it looks like we have done it on the cheap to boot.

So entire Indian state machinery, media, army , semi private organizations are working together to make Modi win elections.
Overblown.

The media is in fact quite anti-Modi. He's kinda like Trump in that respect, hates MSM, prefers SM.

State machinery hates Modi.

I don't know what semi-private organisations are. But the private sector is pro-Modi. But they can't do much beyond providing funds.

The armed forces continue to be apolitical. The security situation is such that they are being seen more prominently in the media, primarily because the BJP has always been more proactive when it comes to national security. We saw that with both Doklam and Uri, and now. The UPA OTOH have been far too passive for the country's good, so all you see are two extremes. It would be wrong to confuse the armed forces' higher morale with political patronage.

A dangerous precedent for the future of India
Unlikely to be of any threat to India.
 

The Deterrent

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Okay, it's possible that it was an ASAT test. But I'm more inclined to believe it was an ASAT test against an electronic target as a trial run before the main show. Although I would wait for confirmation before deciding it succeeded or failed. I'm sure the govt will reveal more details in the near future.
Again, have you read the entire post?
-Also, note that Microsat-R passed over the Mar. 27 intercept point on Feb. 12 at 5:40 UTC/11:10AM IST (h/t @Marco_Langbroek for checking that for me). Guess what time DRDO told Indian press the launch happened?

-Basically, to believe DRDO’s account that the Feb. 12 test was conducted against an electronic target to verify PDV’s BMD performance, the precise timing of Microsat-R above at T=0 and the precise match between the Feb/Mar NOTAMs would have to be a *total coincidence*.
National security is exempt from MCC. Modi can talk about it how much ever he wants to during election time.
Again, it is not about exemption or a technicality. Why did Modi feel the need to order an ASAT test close to elections, make a pompous codename for the test, and then brag about it? Don't you think that the Indian military prowess is being exploited for short-term electoral gains?

Anyhow, what do you think of the overall upgrade to our BMD? With this missile, we will be able to shoot down Pakistani MRBMs in mid-course as well. And it looks like we have done it on the cheap to boot.
I've held the same view as many other third parties: Technically, this test had less to do with developing deployable ASATs, and more with verifying BMD's parameters in exoatmospheric domain...along-with achieving political objectives.

DRDO now has a somewhat proven seeker, capable of mid-course interception of ballistic non-maneuverable objects. What remains to be developed is a cost-effective and canisterized rocket motor for the seeker (K-4 is an overkill). Perhaps the proposed Agni-IP's motor will be used for this purpose.

I'll doubt the effectiveness of any ABM unless it is trialed against a BM with an actual RV (representative of the rival's capabilities), for example the Israeli Silver Sparrow. The day DRDO trials its BMD against Agni-I/II (or a representative system), I'll be convinced that Pakistani Shaheen-I/II/Ghauri/Ababeel are at risk. The day DRDO trials its BMD against a mid-course maneuvering RV of Agni-III (or a representative system), I'll be convinced that Shaheen-IA/Shaheen-III are at risk.
 

Tom M

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https://thediplomat.com/2019/04/exc...-failed-anti-satellite-test-in-february-2019/

Exclusive: India Conducted a Failed Anti-Satellite Test in February 2019

India succeeded in destroying a satellite in low earth orbit in March, but that wasn’t its first attempted ASAT test.


By Ankit Panda
March 30, 2019

India’s Defense Research and Development Organization carried out a failed first attempt to destroy a satellite in low-earth orbit on February 12, The Diplomat has learned. The test took place from Abdul Kalam Island off the eastern coast of India.

According to U.S. government sources with knowledge of military intelligence assessments, the United States observed a failed Indian anti-satellite intercept test attempt in February. The solid-fueled interceptor missile used during that test “failed after about 30 seconds of flight,” one source told The Diplomat.

That test is believed to have been India’s first-ever attempt at using a direct-ascent, hit-to-kill interceptor to destroy a satellite—a feat that was completed successfully on March 27, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a successful test in a national address. The first Indian anti-satellite test was dubbed “Mission Shakti.”

It is unclear if the February 12 failed test attempted relied on the same missile and interceptor as the successful March 27 test. According to one U.S. government source, the Indian side had notified the United States of its intent to carry out an experimental weapon test in early February, but without confirming that it would be an anti-satellite test. “They gave us a vague heads up,” the source said.

The first failed Indian test, however, provided enough information for U.S. military intelligence to conclude that New Delhi was attempting an anti-satellite test using a new kind of direct-ascent kinetic interceptor.

India’s anti-satellite test resembles tests conducted in 2007 and 2008 by China and the United States respectively. All these tests have used the kinetic force of an interceptor to collide with a satellite moving rapidly in low earth orbit, destroying it completely and creating orbital debris.

India’s successful intercept took place at an altitude much lower than China’s 2007 test, which generated more than 2000 pieces of significant debris, hundreds of which will remain in orbit for decades. The approximately 282 km altitude of India’s intercept was closer to the 240 km altitude of the United States’ 2008 shootdown of the USA-193 satellite.

U.S. government sources that spoke to The Diplomat were unable to confirm if Microsat-R, the 740 kg satellite India had launched on January 25 and shot down on March 27, was the intended target for the February 12 test attempt. Microsat-R was the target satellite shot down during the March 27 test.

However, a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued by Indian civilian authorities with effect between February 10 and February 12 demarcated a restriction zone off the eastern coast of India that matches the restriction zone described in another NOTAM issued ahead of the March 27 test attempt, suggesting that the very same satellite was the intended target. The February NOTAM warned of the “launching of experimental flight vehicle,” but did not specify that any low earth orbit objects would be held at risk.


Indian NOTAM with effect between February 10, 2019, at 5:15 a.m. to February 12, 2019, at 6:45 a.m..

Following India’s successful anti-satellite test on March 27, the U.S. State Department released a statement noting that it “saw PM Modi’s statement that announced India’s anti-satellite test.” The statement added support for a strong U.S.-India relationship, noting that “As part of our strong strategic partnership with India, we will continue to pursue shared interests in space and scientific and technical cooperation, including collaboration on safety and security in space.”

“The issue of space debris is an important concern for the U.S. government. We took note of Indian government statements that the test was designed to address space debris issues,” the statement continued. In the aftermath of the test, U.S. Strategic Command began tracking more than 200 debris objects.

The United States is still assessing the total scope of the debris created by the Indian test. India has claimed that it expects all debris from the March 27 test to burn up in the earth’s atmosphere in 45 days.

A Pre-Election Controversy

Politically, had the first attempted Indian anti-satellite test succeeded, Modi might have avoided the scrutiny that came with a national address to announce the March 27 successful test so close to the opening of polling for India’s 2019 general elections, which will see some 900 million Indian voters select candidates for the lower house of India’s bicameral parliament.

Beginning on March 10, the Indian Election Commission put in place the Model Code of Conduct, which restricts the kind of policy announcements the incumbent government can make in an attempt to prevent unfair attempts to seize an electoral advantage before the elections.

Indian opposition parties claimed that Modi’s announcement of the anti-satellite test was a violation of the code. Two days after his announcement, the Electoral Commission determined that Modi had not violated the code of the conduct with his national address announcing the successful test.

The test attempt in early February also pre-dated the Pulwama terror attack on February 14, which killed 40 Indian paramilitary personnel and precipitated a major crisis with Pakistan that culminated in late February with Indian air strikes on Pakistani soil.

UPDATES (by the author):

-One news report described it as a test against an ''electronic'' target:
http://www.newindianexpress.com/sta...nterceptor-missile-flight-tested-1938253.html

-Also, note that Microsat-R passed over the Mar. 27 intercept point on Feb. 12 at 5:40 UTC/11:10AM IST (h/t @Marco_Langbroek for checking that for me). Guess what time DRDO told Indian press the launch happened?

-Basically, to believe DRDO’s account that the Feb. 12 test was conducted against an electronic target to verify PDV’s BMD performance, the precise timing of Microsat-R above at T=0 and the precise match between the Feb/Mar NOTAMs would have to be a *total coincidence*.

-Second independent check on the location of Microsat-R on Feb. 12 at DRDO’s launch time from the always reliable @planet4589.

-Solid booster failure probably, which DRDO has plenty of experience dealing with by now.
So what ???? It is already a part of history now. :-)
 

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