Tonight, the United States Navy may make its first attempt to shoot down failing spy satellite USA-193. The Pentagon released notification, but conditions must be ideal for the rocket launch. Without planned removal, the satellite would come back down in early March.
The satellite, which failed immediately after its December 2006 launch, contains a full tank of fuel. Upon re-entry, the satellite will break apart and could disperse hazardous fumes over an area as large as two football fields.
Skeptics believe the U.S. is more concerned with a foreign nation recovering technology aboard the satellite than about toxic fumes. This is doubtful. Should the satellite re-enter, it is unlikely that the remaining debris would be useful for espionage. However, Uncle Sam might use this attempt to flex his muscle in response to China’s satellite downing last year.
This isn't the first time the U.S scrambled with a troublesome satellite. In April 1964, a U.S. reconnaissance satellite came down in Venezuela, near the Colombian border. Dwayne A. Day provides a thorough review of this event in his essay on The Space Review web site.
In 1985, the U.S. angered scientists by taking out a research satellite. On September 13, the Air Force shot down Solwind P78-1 in a congressionally authorized test of an anti-satellite missile program. Two instruments in the satellite’s payload were still functioning. Check out this September 1985 article by John Eberhart about the satellite’s destruction. In it, David Rust of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory soundly criticizes the government for its poor target selection.
How much will Wednesday night’s rocket launch cost John and Jane Q. Public? Officials estimate $40 to $60 million. Let’s hope the Navy obliterates the satellite with only one take.
What if the U.S. "IS" only concerned with blowing the satellite to smithereens so a foreign nation doesn't get their hands on our technology??? I would certainly hope our government would knock it out of the sky. 2 football fields is a very small area comparatively. I am also sure that he gov't (NASA and the JPL) also probably already have a good idea where the sat would crash anyway. They already know it's orbit and probable trajectory. And even though there is concern for the hazards of the fuel it uses, I really think that national security is the key element for their interest. Rightfully so too. They are making the correct move.
I suppose I should retitle this "Terminated."
It appears Beijing isn't as flippant about this satellite beat-down as their show of force in 2007.
I suspect that the chances of the satellite terminating on Grand Central Station or in somebody's back garden was pretty remote. This was target practice and the target came "free" ! It also has proved to be a useful public demonstation of U.S prowess in this domaine.
Practice makes perfect. Target practice makes shooting perfect. This exercise makes sense.