Nambi Narayanan on ASAT missile project: ‘There could be reasons for delay in giving clearance’

Former ISRO scientist and Padma Bhushan award winner Nambi Narayanan has said that there could be reasons why the previous UPA government had not given clearance for the DRDO to go ahead with the anti-satellite missile project.

on Thursday, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the success of Mission Sakti, Narayanan said, “I think we can believe what former DRDO chief V K Saraswat stated about the delay in giving clearance for the project. But there could be reasons for the delay in giving clearance.”

Narayanan said one should consider the probability of mistakes. “You need time and courage to face probable mistakes. That may be the reason why the government in 2012 did not give the clearance.”

On the probable mistakes, Narayanan pointed out at the chances of a missile hitting a wrong satellite. “This is a calculated mission. We acquire the satellite which has to be destroyed. The hitting of the satellite takes place in connection with the missile we launch. Since all rockets we launch become successful, there is a general impression that any mission would be successful….Any time a rocket can fail or it can go to a different orbit. Sometimes, a missile we are launching may hit a wrong satellite. If the missile wrongly hit a satellite used for communication purpose, the mistake can turn into a disaster,” he said.

“The anti-satellite missile has hit a satellite in the earth’s low orbit. The missile can go up to geocentric orbit. But the most important part is guiding the missile. When the satellite is moving at such a speed and height, we have to guide the missile to the targeted satellite. A lot of people have accomplished the mission after taking the calculated risk,’’ he said.

Had the missile hit a wrong satellite, the present tone of discussion on the issue would have been different. “The government would have been under fire and the scientists would have been in the dock. What would have been harshness of the reactions of those who now find fault with the PM announcing the success of the mission,” he said.

On the next challenge of the mission, he said it should be made an ever-ready mission. But that is only a matter of policy decision. “This is a system to protect our satellites. Today’s day-to-day life is dependent upon satellites and that dependency is going up…. Hence, this anti-satellite missile is necessary to protect our satellites.”

Narayanan refused to comment on former ISRO chief G Madhavan Nair’s statement that India had anti-satellite missile capability a decade ago, but there was no political will at that time to demonstrate it.

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