Claiming that they “used deception to maintain secrecy” about Mission Shakti, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) scientist Dr U Rajababu on Saturday said that till the time of launch of Anti-Satellite Missile Test (ASAT) on March 27, only 30-40 people knew about the strategic weapon’s launch.
Rajababu, the Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) programme director, was addressing a seminar on Mission Shakti in Nehru Science Centre on Saturday. Most in audience were school children. He said that more than 150 scientists were involved in the launch of ASAT, but only a handful knew what exactly they were working for.
”In the first two months, only three people knew. In six months, only 10 people knew about ASAT launch,” he said, adding that they had to shield the actual launch from their own scientists by claiming the work was for electronic targeting.
On the night of March 27, India became the fourth country to enter the elite league where sophisticated technology was used to destroy a high velocity satellite within 10 cm of accuracy. The ASAT was launched from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Island launch complex near Balasore, Odisha, because of its strategic location to offer a long range. The missile neutralised the satellite 283 km from Earth’s surface.
”We could have targeted a higher orbit, but we wanted to limit to a small fraction of space debris. About 120 km above the target satellite was the international space station that also had to be avoided,” Rajababu said. Space debris, he said, is inevitable.
“The interception happened at such a high velocity and it appears some fragments of the satellite went up in space. But these are few fragments compared to lakhs of fragments of Chinese or US satellites,” he added.