Clean Kill

Feb 25, 2008 12:26pm

The Defense Department this morning reports that not only did it hit that disabled spy satellite last week, it pulverized it, including its fuel tank.  The operations center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is reported to be tracking about 3,000 pieces of debris, none larger than a football.  That debris would mostly be following the decaying orbit the satellite was following, which means that most of it should burn up in the atmosphere in a few weeks.  What little danger there was to anyone on the ground is over. Their statement is HERE; key paragraphs below: "The Department of Defense announced today that based on debris analysis, officials are confident the missile intercept and destruction of a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite, achieved the objective of destroying the hydrazine tank and reducing, if not eliminating, the risk to people on Earth from the hazardous chemical. "By all accounts this was a successful mission. From the debris analysis, we have a high degree of confidence the satellite’s fuel tank was destroyed and the hydrazine has been dissipated," said Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff…. "A single modified tactical Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), fired from the USS Lake Erie was used to engage the satellite. The remaining two modified missiles will be configured back to their original status as tactical missiles and the operational computer software programs aboard the Aegis ships will be re-installed. "The Joint Functional Component Command for Space Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., is tracking less than 3,000 pieces of debris, all smaller than a football. The vast majority of debris has already reentered or will shortly reenter the Earth’s atmosphere in the coming days and weeks. To date, there have been no reports of debris landing on Earth and it is unlikely any will remain intact to impact the ground." There’s been little reaction since the successful hit last week.  But on the way to looking for what there was, I tripped across this from the "People’s Weekly World," which describes itself having a "special relationship" with the Communist Party in America: "The interception of a ‘disabled spy satellite’ by a Pentagon missile is worrying some countries that see it as a poorly disguised attempt to test an anti-satellite weapons system. The Pentagon missile launch Thursday amounted to an unprecedented demonstration to the world that the U.S. can take out spacecrafts launched by other nations." On the flip side, take a look at a column by Vincent Massaro in The Independent Florida Alligator.  "We did it!" he writes.  He continues, "the need to search and the need to destroy address the same issue: the need to retain superiority over other countries."
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UPDATE, Monday Evening:

One of you commented that we hadn’t heard from the Union of Concerned Scientists…so I got curious and checked.  Turns out they posted a statement on Feb. 20, before the satellite was taken out:

"’The potential political cost of shooting down this satellite is high,’ said Laura Grego, an astrophysicist with UCS’s Global Security Program. ‘Whatever the motivation for it, demonstrating an anti-satellite weapon is counterproductive to U.S. long-term interests, given that the United States has the most to gain from an international space weapons ban. Instead, it should be taking the lead in negotiating a treaty.’"

Full text HERE.

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