DSA begins scouting for 'star wars' tech: Latest move shows India awake to threats of tomorrow
India's recently constituted Defence Space Agency, under the Ministry of Defence, has, reportedly, begun looking for innovations and technologies to augment the country's capabilities to contend with the new and largely unexplored frontier of space. The tri-services agency, which became operational in November 2019 and effectively merged the Defence Imagery Processing and Analysis Centre and the Defence Information Assurance and Research Agency, is one among three of India's space-based agencies that also includes Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Defence Space Research Agency (DSRO). The need for a greater focus on the threats arising from the void has arisen on the back of the increased cluttering in Earth's orbit along with the rising militarisation of space-based objects. According to a NASA report, there were roughly 2,000 active satellites orbiting Earth and over 23,000 pieces of debris larger than 10cm in orbit as of January 2020. What's more, it has also been reported that three-quarters of all satellites launched by space agencies around the world aim to serve military needs, effectively acting as the eyes and ears of command outfits. In a rapidly modernising military environment that now sees more and more technologies that employ the electromagnetic system, the importance of space situational awareness has never been greater. RELATED NEWS ISRO to adopt 100 Atal Tinkering Labs to promote scientific temperament, encourage space education US accuses Russia of firing anti-satellite weapon in space The big reach out – where will we be in space by 2030? Simply put, space situational awareness refers to the identification, monitoring and tracking of man-made or natural objects in the Earth's orbit, also towards predicting their behaviour across a time-series. In April 2019, India achieved a new milestone following the success of Mission Shakti – the launch of an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile – that propelled it into an elite club that included only the United States, Russia and China. Yet, unlike the three other members of that club, India's space policy has largely adopted a civilian and commercial focus until recently. It was only in July 2019 when the tri-services integrated defence staff (IDS) conducted the two-day "IndSpaceEx,” its first-ever space warfare exercise that provided valuable insight into the emerging space security challenges that face the nation in the years and decades ahead. The US and Russia are significantly ahead of the curve with regard to ASAT having, reportedly, already launched 'space mines' able to reduce enemy targets to debris in higher geostationary orbits. Meanwhile, it is no secret that China, having conducted its first ASAT test in 2007, is well on its way toward developing an arsenal of co-orbital killer satellites and direct ascent missiles, along with non-kinetic weapons like laser and electro-magnetic pulse weapons. As such, given the growing threat from space, the IndSpaceEx drill marked a realisation that India needs to expeditiously develop a space doctrine that facilitates the integration and continued development of deterrence and counter-measure technologies capable of confronting the threats of tomorrow. The recent decision by the DSA to open bids to the private enterprises, under this lens, is also promising and marks the first signal that the government was inclined to collaborate with India's private sector to buttress the nation's space defence capabilities.