The Very First ‘Battle’ In Space: Israel Intercepts Ballistic Missile In Space

6th Nov 2023
The Very First ‘Battle’ In Space: Israel Intercepts Ballistic Missile In Space

Israel has become the first country to intercept a ballistic missile in Earth’s outer atmosphere. Originally reported by the telegraph, the fired missile was purportedly launched from Yemen by Iran-backed militants, called Houthi. 

The Telegraph also reportedly ascertained that Israel’s Defence Forces (IDF) confirmed the attack and that footage has emerged of Houthi launching the missile. Significantly, the intercept itself is calculated to have occurred above the Kármán Line. This type of interception has never happened in prior or current wars, marking a first in history for combat in space. 

What Is Known About The In-Space Missile Interception

Flying over the Arabian Peninsula, Israel tracked the missile as it headed towards the city and port of Eilat. The missile flew almost 1,600 km and eventually travelled outside Earth’s atmosphere. This is when Israel supposedly used their ‘Arrow’ anti-ballistic missile defence system to avert the projectile from hitting its target. The Telegraph claims that IDF saw a space interception as: “the most appropriate operational time and location.”

Further reports have claimed the system used was either the US and Israeli-built Arrow 2 or Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile unit. The latter, according to Israel Aerospace Industries, is the first “operational, national, stand-alone Anti Tactical Ballistic Missiles defence system.” However, both are capable of intercepting projectiles in space and reports are mixed on whether it was the Arrow 2 or 3 that destroyed the Houthi missile.  

Russia Threatens NATO Satellites Using Missiles

Aside from Israel, very few countries have space-reaching missiles, and Russia is one of the few. They shot down one of their own satellites using a projectile in 2021. Russia has also previously threatened to attack US and ally satellites to prevent NATO’s involvement in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A Russian Foreign Ministry senior official, Konstantin Vorontsov, echoed the Kremlin’s warning when speaking to the UN. He said “the West” are using satellites and other strategic assets to assert its dominance in space, and exclaiming that any NATO involvement would lead to further escalations. 

Other Arising In-Space Threats

Due to China’s secretive machinations, concerns arose when a Chinese spacecraft dragged a satellite out of orbit in 2022. Although it was later uncovered that the mission was a space debris removal exercise, experts begged the question: is China developing a weapon capable of destroying satellites

There is also an additional concern arising from Israel’s recent interception: what happens if a ballistic missile strikes operational satellites? The collision could cause splintered debris to strike other operative satellites in orbit creating a chain reaction. For example, ESA said: “a 1-cm object would most likely disable a spacecraft and penetrate the ISS shields.” Therefore, the aftermath of a missile strike would be catastrophic. The event could cause a continuation of collisions, enacting the “Kessler Effect” – creating the worst-case scenario.

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