Put in place space security plan, says top scientist

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Avinash Chander
Business Line Avinash Chander

India needs to put in a place a comprehensive space security plan, Avinash Chander, Chief Controller R&D (Missiles & Strategic System), Defence Research and Development Organisation, has said.

Traditional wars have been fought on land and sea. However, in the last few decades it is air warfare. Two dimensions have emerged in recent times — cyber warfare and space security, he told engineers and scientists at the 26th national convention of aerospace engineers on Saturday.

Serious threat

Cyber warfare is already accepted as a serious threat warranting major national initiatives to counteract. Cyber defence inherently helps create protective measures, blockages, shutdowns, and several multi-layered protection.

Space systems today have no such protections and are too remote to actively protect. However, they are equally critical. That is the reason why we need to address space security, he said. Currently, India has a total of nine active communication satellites (total launched is 24) and about 12 of these payloads in orbit. All it takes is about 50-60 anti-satellite weapons to neutralise this, he said.

China and the US have demonstrated anti-satellite capabilities. Developing systems to hit a geosynchronous orbit satellite is just one step further.

India can also create anti-satellite capability, with a combination of Agni launch vehicle and ballistic missile defence kill vehicle, he added. We have global treaties. But all wars start with violation of some treaty or the other. Further, treaties change with the enhancement of capabilities, which result in imbalances and changing aspirations and threat perceptions of interacting nations. The abrogation of the ballistic missile defence treaty by the US is an example, he said.

Two major aspects of space security are denial of access to adversaries and protection of our capability. Today an estimated 2.1 million space objects are orbiting the earth at different altitudes.

Each of them is a potential source of damage to our space assets, intentionally or accidentally. We need to track them and plan evasive action. Even our ballistic missile launches should ensure that we do not hit any orbital satellite.

Coming to protection of space assets, he said we should think of small satellite clusters with distributed resources instead of single large satellites.

(This article was published on November 25, 2012)
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