India has conducted its first anti-satellite weapons test, destroying an existing satellite today in low-Earth orbit. On its official website, the Indian government confirmed that a missile launched from the Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam Island launch complex took out a previously launched Indian satellite as part of Mission Shakti, which is tasked with testing the country's means for protecting its space assets.

Anti-satellite weapons aren't new. Systems capable of destroying orbital spacecraft have been around since the 1960s and include everything from specialized anti-satellite satellites packed with explosives, to repurposed shipborne anti-missile missile systems that can take out space targets without any special modifications.

However, for various technological and diplomatic reasons, very few spacefaring nations have actually developed anti-satellite weapons. Today's test makes India the fourth to do so after the United States, Russia, and China.

The Indian government says that the test was conducted by India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and was fully successful, demonstrating the country's ability to knock out a satellite with a high degree of precision using indigenous technology. The missile was a DRDO Ballistic Missile Defence interceptor developed as part of India's general missile defence program. It operated as expected, but carried no explosive warhead. Instead, it was what is known as a "kinetic kill," where the hypersonic velocity of the interceptor is enough to destroy the target.

The government stresses that India is not involved in a space arms race, that the test is in accordance with existing arms treaties, and is not directed at any other nation. In addition, it says that the target was destroyed in the upper atmosphere and that any debris generated will leave orbit within weeks.