Mission Shakti

India recently carried out its anti-satellite missile launch successfully with Mission Shakti, and became only the fourth nation to have done so after US, Russia and China. She has thus joined this small group of elite space powers.

In case of a conflict situation in future, India can shoot down a spy satellite, by sending an automated missile into space.

This is no small achievement.

Mission Shakti, a representative image
Defence Research Development Organization

Stalled previously due to indecisive Government

India has this capability in 2012, but was stalled due to an indecisive government. The plan was submitted to the Central government in 2012, but no sanction was given.

The political will shown by the present government has enabled India to become a space power, after its successful Mission Shakti Project.

Humble beginning in 1963

Thumba, the place of first launch

This is all after a humble beginning a few decades back. It was in 1963, 53 years ago that India’s first rocket took off from Thumba on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. This place soon became a launch station known as Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launch Station, and later on with more advancement went on to attain the name of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, named after the eminent space scientist Dr. Vikram Sarabai, the Father of Indian Space Program.

Dr. Vikram Sarabai Space Centre

It was Dr. Vikram Sarabai who helped India make its first signature in space, as he chose Thumba for carrying out this Mission.

Dr. Vikram Sarabai

Dr. Sarabai felt that Thumba with its location at 8°32’34” N and 76°51’32” E is ideal for low altitude,  upper atmosphere, and ionosphere studies. Thus he felt that Thumba would be ideal for any rocket launch.

Dr. Kalam among the young recruits

Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam in his earlier days then, was one of the recruits in Dr. Sarabai’s team consisting of young enthusiastic scientists who were sent for training on rocket assembly and launch at NASA’s Wallops Island in Virginia, USA. After their training, this young bunch of scientists began to gradually assemble together their first rocket.

A young Dr. Kalam with Dr. Sarabai

Rocket parts carried on cycles and bullock carts

Thumba in those days was an isolated village, and didn’t have adequate transportation facilities. It is thus that the parts for making a rocket was carried in cycle and bullock cart.

Parts of India’s first rocket being carried on cycle and bullock cart

India Soars into Space

On 21st November, 1963, India was all ready to launch it first rocket. After a few hiccups initially, the rocket eventually took off at 6.25 pm, allowing India to make its first mark in space. It was due to the skill of Dr. Vikram Sarabai and young budding scientists like Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam that this mission became possible then.

India’s first rocket launch in 1963

Mission Shakti – 2019

India has gone a long way today in becoming a space power, after its first baby step in 1963. After 53 years, DRDO today conducted an anti-missile test from Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam Island launch complex, in Orissa.

This test was successful on all parameters. The technology used for carrying out this mission consisted of DRDO’s ballistic missile defence interceptor, along with Kinetic Kill, a space technology in which India has capability. The main goal of this mission was to demonstrate that India has the capability of safeguarding its space assets as well as prevent any misuse of space technology in targeting India.

Multiple Levels of Precession shown

A satellite which is at 300 kms from Earth travels at a speed of 30,000 Km / h, while an ASAT missile travels at 24000 km/h. Thus hitting a satellite requires an incredible precision, and DRDO (Defence Research Development Organization) must really be credited for making this humungous task possible.

 A phenomenal achievement!

The size of the satellite that was hit was 1 cubic metre, only as big as large suitcase. It is indeed remarkable to hit such a small object moving at an incredible speed.

An object of 1 cubic metre

Shooting a bullseye is part of the archery contests. The precession of hitting a target is what our legends tell us from ancient times. The classic case is of Arjuna hitting the fish eye, during Draupadi Swayamvara. This hitting of the satellite is similar to the great precession shown by Arjuna.

Arjuna at Draupadi Swayamvara

Moreover, as per international regulations, the target has to be hit, when it is flying over one’s country, and which in this case is only 7 minutes owing to the great speed of this satellite.

The satellite area in the space is also very crowded. In that crowd to pin point the target exactly is a bigger achievement.

The crowded Space

The target also has to be hit in such a way that the debris doesn’t hang around in space, becoming an obstacle for other satellites.

This Mission of DRDO was able to achieve all these requirement, showing a high level of precision skills.

Till date, we have 49 satellites in space. This anti-satellite skill that we have achieved of will help us safeguard our satellites, because now we know how to bring down enemy satellites.

Today’s space is still an unregulated area, and very few countries are in the elite space club. This technical capability and achievement not only puts us in that elite space club, but if and when regulatory bodies are formed, by world space bodies, then India will naturally have her rightful place on high tables, with veto powers.

A landmark achievement

Mission Shakti has been a landmark achievement for India on Space front, and 27th March 2019, will be etched in the memory of many, for witnessing one of the challenging tasks of shooting a satellite in faraway space. This will take India a long way in becoming a Space Super Power.

For more on Mission Shakti, see this conversation by D K Hari, on Shree TV:

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