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Space The Military Science

US To Shoot Down Dying Satellite 429

Posted by Zonk
from the we-who-may-be-about-to-reenter-orbit-salute-you dept.
A user writes "US officials say that the Pentagon is planning to shoot down a broken spy satellite expected to hit the Earth in early March. We discussed the device's decaying orbit late last month. The Associated Press has learned that the option preferred by the Bush administration will be to fire a missile from a U.S. Navy cruiser, and shoot down the satellite before it enters Earth's atmosphere. 'A key concern ... was the debris created by Chinese satellite's destruction -- and that will also be a focus now, as the U.S. determines exactly when and under what circumstances to shoot down its errant satellite. The military will have to choose a time and a location that will avoid to the greatest degree any damage to other satellites in the sky. Also, there is the possibility that large pieces could remain, and either stay in orbit where they can collide with other satellites or possibly fall to Earth.'"
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US To Shoot Down Dying Satellite

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  • by stevedcc (1000313) * on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:32PM (#22424292)
    "We consider our secrets to be worth space junk, but your security not to be".

    Is this really anything else? The US is willing to protect it's secrets, China was trying to ensure they could protect theirs. Both are sovereign nations with the technology and ability to make these decisions.

    The only way issues like this will ever be resolved is by allowing some intra-national body to have either approval or veto powers, but nobody wants to be told what they can/can't do.

    • by crymeph0 (682581) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @03:03PM (#22424778)

      That may be the actual thought process at the Pentagon, but there is actually a sound justification for shooting down this satellite: TFA says there is a 1 percent chance debris could hit a populated area. That is well above the danger threshold NASA, etc. allow when choosing where to perform a controlled deorbit. 1 percent doesn't seem like a lot, until you realize how many satellites are up there, and they all must come down eventually.

      Even if safety weren't a genuine concern, it would still be acceptable to shoot down this particular satellite, in my uninformed opinion. I believe this because it's already in a decaying orbit that will bring it down within two months. Any debris created by the explosion will be in a similar or slightly higher orbit, and will also decay to GLO (ground-level orbit) in a reasonably short time. The satellite the Chinese shot down was in a much higher orbit, and that debris is likely to stay up for *hundreds* of years, IIRC. If they had shot down a satellite in a similar orbit as this, there wouldn't be a stink about the debris, only about the naked attempt at weaponizing space.

      • by KH2002 (547812) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @03:24PM (#22425104) Journal

        The satellite the Chinese shot down was in a much higher orbit, and that debris is likely to stay up for *hundreds* of years...
        It's worse than that -- according to MIT space security expert Geoffrey Forden [wired.com], "China's debris will be in orbit for thousands of years (and I mean that literally). ... [The US shoot-down] would create a debris field but no where near the sort of debris catastrophe that China created last year."

        The two shoot-downs are not equivalent, which of course won't prevent agenda-driven comparisons...

        • Still dangerous (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mangu (126918) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @04:39PM (#22426330)

          [The US shoot-down] would create a debris field but no where near the sort of debris catastrophe that China created last year

          Letting the satellite re-enter atmosphere unbroken would be the only way to make sure it does NOT create a debris field.


          A satellite is not an airplane, there's no way to "shoot" it down. Breaking it in pieces will not bring it down, it's atmospheric drag that's doing it. All the Pentagon is doing is trying to make sure that it breaks down into pieces small enough to protect their military secrets.


          By blowing up the satellite with a missile they have no control on how it's going to break, all they can do is estimate on the most probable breaking patterns. They cannot be sure that the remaining pieces will be of such sizes and shapes to re-enter the atmosphere in a predictable manner and time.


          There is still the possibility that some of the largest fragments will hit some populated area. The fuel tanks, which are compact and very strongly built, will have a rather good chance of surviving, and reaching the earth's surface still containing some of that extremely toxic hydrazine (so toxic that a drop can kill a person). Besides, the explosion will inevitably send some fragments into a higher orbit, and possibly damage other satellites.


          Blowing up a decaying satellite with a missile is, IMHO, the stupidest thing to do, and I have been an engineer working with satellite control systems for nearly 24 years by now.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        until you realize how many satellites are up there, and they all must come down eventually.

        What goes up must come down, eh?

        Nope.

        It depends entirely on the radius of the orbit, the orbital velocity, and the amount of upper atmosphere remaining at that altitude. If the orbit is good and the drag nil, it'll stay up there. Or at least that's how orbital mechanics worked when I was a kid.

    • by evanbd (210358) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @03:05PM (#22424802)

      To be fair, the space junk isn't equivalent -- the junk from a satellite that's about to reenter will also reenter promptly, whereas the junk from a satellite in a high orbit will remain in a high orbit. The impact won't actually alter the orbital parameters of the junk as much as you might expect; nearly all of it will reenter promptly, and I'd be surprised if any of it managed to get high enough to present a danger to other satellites (the satellite in question is well below normal operating altitudes).

      Of course, I'm not trying to say the US isn't guilty of hypocrisy -- just that this case isn't as bad as you make it out to be.

  • by link5280 (1141253) * on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:32PM (#22424294)
    Since this is a severely decayed orbit I would suspect most debris to reenter within the same timeframe or shortly thereafter, 1-2 weeks. I also doubt it will create any debris fields in a useful orbit. Anyway, the only reason the military would do this in the first place is to ensure a complete destruction of the spacecraft. Break it up into small pieces beforehand and the reentry will take care of the rest. Otherwise, why bother! Or target practice?
    • by p0tat03 (985078) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:37PM (#22424354)

      A bit of both I suppose. It's not every day you get to do a live-fire exercise of your satellite-attacking technologies... Not to mention it's not every day you get a real live test of just how good your satellite's anti-missile technologies are! Either way somebody in the military wins :P

      Big chunks will no doubt re-enter the atmosphere relatively quickly, and they should be small enough that they will burn up completely in upon re-entry, which I think was the whole point of this exercise...

      • by Sen.NullProcPntr (855073) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:52PM (#22424612)

        Big chunks will no doubt re-enter the atmosphere relatively quickly, and they should be small enough that they will burn up completely in upon re-entry, which I think was the whole point of this exercise...
        What about the force of the explosion? With no air resistance isn't just as likely that some pieces (of both the satellite and the missile) will end up in higher orbit thus the concern for collision with other satellites.
        • by peragrin (659227)
          That is my thought but if they wait until just it just about enters the atmosphere, or slightly after, the upwards debris is minimized while making sure that most of the debris burns up on reentry.

          Of course this being the USA Military I expect military intelligence to kick in and they send up 5 missiles more than they need to.
        • by Trails (629752) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @03:07PM (#22424848)
          That's probably unlikely. Keep in mind that a higher orbit requires more than just altitude, it also requires angular velocity. The explosion would have to impart enough kinetic energy to not just overcome the gravitational potential to reach the altitude of other sats, but also to impart the necessary angular velocity about the earth.

          The US military is probably aware of the max velocity of debris from their different ordinance. As much as the US administration is full of morons, the physicists designing the ordinance and planning stuff like this are quite competent.
        • In order to orbit successfully the debris would need a specific velocity and trajectory.
          Chances are it would fall back to earth fairly quickly.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2008 @03:48PM (#22425476)
          Short answer: No

          Longer answer: The orbit of a satellite can be determined by the position and the velocity at any time. Orbits are changed by changing the velocity of a satellite, but the old and new orbits will continue to intersect at the point where the velocity was changed.

          Changing to a higher orbit will require two changes in velocity and uses a transfer orbit that intersects both orbits. One velocity change puts the satellite into the transfer orbit and one velocity change puts it into the final orbit. Usually, the two velocity changes are at opposite sides of the transfer orbit (half an orbit period apart).

          I assume that this will use a warhead instead of a rocket motor for a single change of velocity, but there will only be one change of velocity. If the intercept takes place at lowest point of the current orbit then any debris will be in an orbit that will return the debris to the point of intercept. If it is already brushing the atmosphere then reentry is inevitable and the time to reentry will only depend on the ratio of the mass to air drag of the object (small heavy objects will stay in orbit longer).

          Normal precautions of staying out of the temporary orbits of the debris does apply.

          _Richard
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by drerwk (695572)
          The force of the explosion can not put any part of the debris into a higher circular orbit. The debris may go into an elliptical orbit that has a much higher apogee, but perigee will be at the same altitude that the collision takes place. To get into higher circular orbit would require a corrective impulse at apogee. This is true for all of the debris that continues to orbit. Therefore, that debris will on each orbit pass through relatively thick atmosphere, and suffer the eventual consequence of de-orbit.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kabloie (4638)
        That satellite's anti-missile technology is as dead and unresponsive as the rest of that bird. This is simple target practice. Blow the hydrazine tank, try to break the mirror and open up all the aluminum to expose PCBs. Should be fun to watch, and people will be watching and waiting with telescopes to see the results. Cool!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gnick (1211984)

      Or target practice?

      Don't underestimate the value of target practice. Shooting down a satellite is no simple matter. The Chinese engineers decided that they couldn't just hit one with a missile, so they sent up a missile capable of firing a separate payload once it got close enough. I'm sure the US would love an excuse to try out a satellite killer. And, since it's been made clear what a hazard this thing could be if it falls to earth, they can try out their new toy AND protect the planet from their defunct satellite.

    • Or target practice?
      Target practice is exactly what I was thinking too. To show that they _can_ do it. Actually, I'd like to see the Chinese shoot it down first. Would that sour Sinoamerican relations? I think that the credibility it would lend to China would outweigh Bush's anger, and in any case, the satellite is scheduled for decommission anyway.
    • by Zymergy (803632) *
      They are sending a clear message to China.
      In an way, it is an opportunity for a US response to this: http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/01/18/0235229 [slashdot.org]

      The thing is, you do not want "pollute" your (everyone's actually) orbital pathways around earth with millions of pieces of high-velocity debris like the Chinese irresponsibly did here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/01/19/china_satellite/ [theregister.co.uk]
      The Chinese dramatically increased debris in several orbital pathways from the state-sanctioned shoot-d
    • by imipak (254310) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @03:46PM (#22425446) Journal
      I say we launch it into orbit, and nuke it from the surface. It's the only way to be sure.
  • Ulterior motive? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:34PM (#22424318)
    It seems to me that there's no real reason to "shoot down" this satellite, except as a test/demonstration of our ability to shoot down satellites (not necessarily our own)...
    • by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:36PM (#22424340)
      It seems to me that there's no real reason to "shoot down" this satellite, except as a test/demonstration of our ability to shoot down satellites

      That, or there's some technology on the satellite that they don't want to risk falling (literally) into the hands of another country.
      • by jellomizer (103300) * on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:41PM (#22424446)
        I would say it is a kill two birds with one stone.
        A. If push comes to shove they want to be able to shoot down emeny satellites.
        B. They don't want the technology/information going to an other countries hands.
        C. To show that we can, prevent other people from knocking out our own satellites.
        • by gnick (1211984)

          C. To show that we can, prevent other people from knocking out our own satellites.
          How does it do that? We would demonstrate our ability to respond in kind, but not actually interfere.
      • Re:Ulterior motive? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:44PM (#22424504)
        From a related story [nytimes.com] (emphasis mine):

        The orbit of Solar Max, a 5,000-pound satellite that collected information on solar flares for nine years, has deteriorated to the point that the spacecraft should crash back to earth late this week, the space agency said today.

        Most of the craft will burn up in the atmosphere, but about a dozen pieces of three to five pounds each, plus one piece of about 100 pounds, are expected to come back down to earth. The debris could fall anywhere on earth from 28 degrees north to 28 degrees south of the Equator.

        And from TFA (again, emphasis mine):

        It is not known where the satellite will hit. But officials familiar with the situation say about half of the 5,000-pound spacecraft is expected to survive its blazing descent through the atmosphere and will scatter debris -- some of it potentially hazardous -- over several hundred miles.

        It doesn't seem as if "shooting down" the satellite is really going to cause much more damage than re-entry and impact will...for this reason, my money's on either target practice for our benefit, or, more likely, a not-so-subtle demonstration of our space superiority.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by YrWrstNtmr (564987)
          It doesn't seem as if "shooting down" the satellite is really going to cause much more damage than re-entry and impact will...for this reason, my money's on either target practice for our benefit, or, more likely, a not-so-subtle demonstration of our space superiority.

          And, we can (sorta) choose where the pieces come down, instead of relying on mere chance. My guess is they'll bring it down over the ocean.
        • Major differences (Score:3, Interesting)

          by WindBourne (631190)
          1. The solar max does not have much in way of secret equipment. Nearly all is known. OTH, the spy bird is highly secret (though it appears that a number of leaks have been occurring over the last couple of decades).
          2. The solar max is STILL UNDER CONTROL. OTH, the spy bird is not. There is no way to tell it to plunge into the atmosphere at such and such a place and such and such an angle.

          Keep in mind, that America (as does Russia, China, UK, France, and others) de-orbits spy sats regularly. There have been

      • That, or there's some technology on the satellite that they don't want to risk falling (literally) into the hands of another country.

        Who cares? Wasn't the damn thing broken [tech-archive.net] to begin with?

      • by LurkerXXX (667952)
        Shouldn't they have thought about that before they sent it up? They knew the orbit might eventually deteriorate before the 'enemy' came up with the same technology. What if it hadn't achieved as high of an orbit as originially desired? It would have decayed even sooner. What if something had gone wrong during launch and the payload ended up landing in China? Shouldn't they have had a few pounds of C4 on the payload along with a trigger mechanism?

        The 'tech on the satellite they don't want falling into ot
    • by stevedcc (1000313) * on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:38PM (#22424368)
      It's a spy satellite and it's so big that some of it's gonna crash. What if that's over Iran/N Korea/China? You think the US wants them picking apart the remains of classified technology? They have a reason, it's just not necessarily any better than China's logic in testing their ability to destroy satellites (protect themselves from other people's spy satellites). Unless you think that the US's reason is better because it's the US, and China's worse, because it's China.
    • He's not worried about rocket fuel or demonstrating power. He's looking at the countdown on his presidency and he is realizing, "Hmm... I only have 11 months to blow up something again... let's do it in space this time..." It's the international equivalent of putting an M2 in the toilet.
    • by iamlucky13 (795185) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @03:14PM (#22424946)
      I thought it was obvious, but none of the posters so far seem to have picked up on it. This is a further test of the ballistic missile defense program we've been spending $$$ for the last decade. In particular, the SM-3 Aegis Missile Defense System. [wikipedia.org] One of the bonuses is this will be testing the missile under less strictly defined conditions.

      The program has been in the development and test phase since about 2000, and undergoing tests of increasing difficulty, but always under predefined conditions. The tests are also expensive to orchestrate, typically involving several naval vessels, and a lot of ground support from both the navy and contractors, a lot of documentation, and a target missile that itself probably costs several million dollars. Here they've got a target that won't behave as predictably and costs nothing (well sort of...It's a spy satellite that failed to reach the proper orbit). I'm not sure they even know when or where it will come down yet.

      This isn't necessarily a good demonstration of our ability to shoot down satellites. The officially released specs say it has a maximum altitude of 160 km. Most satellites orbit higher than that. However, the actual performance is classified and probably somewhat greater.

      It's also not something new. We tested anti-satellite weapons in the 80's, although those are now past their shelf life and the response time was slow. In the 60's we developed a system called Nike Zeus that had an altitude ceiling of about 300 km. It wasn't accurate enough to directly hit a ballistic missile or satellite to achieve a kinetic kill like the SM-3 does, but with a 40 kiloton nuclear warhead, that didn't much matter. It was never tested with a live warhead and it would have been messy to use (damages anything else nearby, terrible EM interference on the ground, etc), but it was something.
  • Oh bullshit. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:36PM (#22424334) Homepage Journal
    Satellites have been falling ever since we started putting them up, its no real threat.

    The reson we are doing this is obvious - to demonstrate to the world (and the Chinese) that was have functional ASAT capability.

    • Re:Oh bullshit. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by scheme (19778) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:40PM (#22424416)

      Satellites have been falling ever since we started putting them up, its no real threat.

      The reson we are doing this is obvious - to demonstrate to the world (and the Chinese) that was have functional ASAT capability.

      I think the reason is more because various agencies are worried that the satellite will end up falling in someplace while Russia or China and the intact pieces will give these countries examples to reverse engineer or clues as to US capabilities. I believe the satellite is supposed to be the newest generation of spy sats so it's probably full of interesting little tech.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by malakai (136531)
        This is my thoughts as well. What scares/embarsses me is that we seem to have not thought of this ahead of time and so there is no built-in self destruct capability.

        Or, we have a self-destuct system and one of it's requirements is communication with ground.

        In that case I guess I'd have liked to of seen some built in structural weakness. Some sort of failsafe so that if the satellite were to re-enter the atmosphere and begin to burn up, some ignitable material would ensure a thorough burn/destruction of the
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by eclectro (227083)

        there's a crapload of technology that even after reentry would be of HUGE value to many many people on this planet.
        Including all those who would want to see if it could run Linux.
    • Re:Oh bullshit. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:40PM (#22424428) Homepage
      Bullshit on your bullshit.

      It's a brand new spy satellite that failed on deployment. It's chock full of the highest tech we could stuff in it.

      I'd blow it up too if it was mine, there's a crapload of technology that even after reentry would be of HUGE value to many many people on this planet.
      • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:47PM (#22424538) Homepage Journal
        Well, that's all well and good, but YOU read the fucking ARTICLE.
      • by kaiser423 (828989)
        Not to mention the hydrazine fuel that would kill the first chunk of people to find it. Talk about a big PR nightmare -- everyone close to wherever the hydrazine falls dies.

        It's in a degenerate enough orbit to not cause any lasting space debris. We've done this before successfully, and we're going to see if we still can.
        • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @03:18PM (#22425000) Journal
          With a boiling point of 114C, I'd imagine the bulk of the hydrazine would be gone well before the thing hit the ground. This is about destroying whatever's on the satellite and showing off ASAT capability.

          As for the PR damage of killing whoever comes across the fuel, after the whole Iraq war thing, I think it can be conclusively and uncontroversially stated that one thing the Bush administration doesn't give two shits about is bad PR.

  • We could send up a group of octogenarian actors in a shuttle... whadya mean it's already been done!
  • by Nushio (951488)
    Host a tournament based on Missile Commando or any game similar to that.

    The Winner gets to choose when and where to shoot the missle :)
  • Military: Sir, there is a satellite and it's slowly falling to earth
    Bush: 'kay
    Military: It poses no real threat, it will probably burn up on reentry...
    Bush:'Kay
    Military: It was a secret spy satellite...
    Bush:What? Spy?
    Military:It will look real pretty if we blow it up sir...
    Bush: OooOooOoo Pretty... Kay, where do I sign to see the pretty boom boom?!
  • by usul294 (1163169) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:38PM (#22424382)
    This satellite was never able to communicate to the ground. Its orbit was never finished off, which is why it decayed so much as to reenter the atmosphere after 15 months after launch. If they shoot this satellite down, the pieces will still almost all re-enter. The main reason for shooting it down, more than likely is to make sure the fuel doesn't make it past the very upper atmosphere, as well as to ensure that no one unscrupulous gets any technology. The kinetic energy delivered by the missile won't overcome the energy needed to kick the debris back into orbit, so there won't be a debris field.
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      as well as to ensure that no one unscrupulous gets any technology

      Er, didn't some unscrupulous people put the damned thing up ther ein the first place? I mean, us?
    • If they don't shoot it down all the pieces will re-enter, no almost about it.

      As for the fuel, I expect you mean plutonium. No propellant is going to make it to impact. So the question is - do you want to spread very small concentrations of plutonium over a wide area where you can't clean it up or have to go find a few concentrated dollops after impact, like they had to do in Canada.

      Seems rather like the Quentin Crisp approach to re-entry management to me. Don't lose your nerve - after 5 reentries it won

  • Controlled de-orbit? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Dr_Banzai (111657)
    If they're going to the trouble of launching a rocket to intercept the satellite, why don't they build a small booster which could attach to the satellite and perform a controlled de-orbit? This would allow them to choose the point of re-entry to protect whatever secrets may be on board.

    There is far too much space junk up there already. Blowing the satellite into a million pieces doesn't seem like the smartest thing to do. I suspect the US simply wants to demonstrate and test its own anti-satellite system.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Domint (1111399)
      I'm no rocket-scientist, but one could argue the logistics (and subsequent pricetag) of capturing and redeploying a satellite are far, far greater than simply blowing it up. Doubly so when it is in such a decayed orbit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by schematix (533634) *
      If they're going to the trouble of launching a rocket to intercept the satellite, why don't they build a small booster which could attach to the satellite and perform a controlled de-orbit? This would allow them to choose the point of re-entry to protect whatever secrets may be on board.

      The problem with your idea comes down to it being far too complex of a process for the intended result. Launching a rocket to match up with another satellite is much more difficult than in sounds. The bottom line is that

    • by evanbd (210358)

      Because that's a lot harder. If all they wanted was for it to deorbit, they wouldn't be doing anything -- the satellite in question never reached its final orbit, and is rapidly decaying. It will reenter fairly soon if left alone. Presumably they're trying to prevent it from reentering where Russia or China or someone might find the pieces and get clues about our capabilities -- it's pretty clearly a recent-generation spy satellite. If they are careful about how they shoot it down, they may get some con

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Ohhhh, they could launch it from a hollowed out volcano and it could capture space capsules too and hold the astronauts hostage.
  • by FudRucker (866063) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:40PM (#22424412)
    next time they build a satellite it would be a good idea to put a self destruct in it that can be activated remotely, cheaper and more reliable than shooting missiles at it...
    • by stevedcc (1000313) * on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:41PM (#22424448)

      next time they build a satellite it would be a good idea to put a self destruct in it that can be activated remotely, cheaper and more reliable than shooting missiles at it...

      Unless of course, the satellite stopped working because it's computer is bust. Then you'd have a big lump of explosives rolling around in space, and no control over it.

      • by FudRucker (866063)
        it does not have to be complicated just radio controlled so when the right signal with CTCSS squelch code & whatever else needed to be sure it does not get activated prematurely...
        • by stevedcc (1000313) *
          you think the cost of putting into orbit explosives * all spy satellites + extra separate power & control system so they can be used if the battery / computer dies is less than the cost of sending a missile that you've already built against the occasional dud?
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Domint (1111399)
          Yes, but then you also need to put in a bunch of safe-guards against someone figuring out the triggering mechanism and simply blowing all of our satellites up. The problem with that is the more systems and failsafes you add, the more complex the system becomes. Invariably this results in the weight of the total payload increasing, which is a big factor in getting things to orbit in the first place. Plus it creates more areas for error, such as a controlling CPU not functioning, rendering the satellite usele
      • by techpawn (969834)

        Then you'd have a big lump of explosives rolling around in space, and no control over it.
        That on reentry would explode right?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Great idea. Then the smart ass 12 year old Polish kid's going to use a TV remote to blow it up. Aside from the added weight and technical complexity that this would add to the satellite, if those codes get hacked it's millions if not billions of dollars down the toilet. Maybe more, if they detonated the satellites at a strategically advantageous time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tomhath (637240)
      Self-destruct would be good, assuming they can communicate with the satellite. But if they could communicate with it, they would've commanded it to make a controlled de-orbit.
  • I seem to remember reading a few different ideas for bringing satellites down that did not involve explosives. This seems like a great time to test one of them
  • PEW! PEW! PEW! PKSSHHHHHH!

    thats right, my disintegration ray would sound like a toy gun you can find at the dollar store.

    Maybe instead they should just find a way to push the satellites out of orbit into space maybe even toward to sun for future disposals? Otherwise we're gonna need to come up with either much stronger material to not get damaged by space debris, or make some big magnet that can scoop it up out of orbit.
  • by Ellis D. Tripp (755736) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:42PM (#22424458) Homepage
    about the hydrazine fuel onboard, and the hazard it would pose to anyone on the ground, as if the fuel tanks would survive the breakup and atmospheric heating of the re-entry.

    Looks like a great chance for the Bush regime to pull off an ASAT test, with a ready-made cover story to deflect blame for all the space junk it will create.
    • by Deadstick (535032)
      Every F-16 crash is a hydrazine spill...

      rj
    • Hydrazine is just the fuel for the control surfaces. Electrical power is provided by nuclear material. That material won't burn up.

      The US has had ASAT technology for decades, which is why the Russian Navy has equipped its ships with shortwave radios.
  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:43PM (#22424470) Homepage
    Since the Chinese have proven they can do this, it's reasonable to assume they can do it cheaper. Maybe they pentagon could outsource this satellite shoot-down.

    You know, if the pentagon REALLY wanted to come across as bad ass, they wouldn't have told anyone it was a bad satellite. Then we could show the world we'll shoot down our own satellites just cause we can. Like a diplomatic "Don't you know i'm locco, esse?"

  • What the 'real' reason for shooting the satellite down is. It could be the risk of the toxic thruster fuel "hydrazine" not burning up an injuring someone, or, maybe because the "sophisticated and secret imaging sensor" might not burn up totally, or, maybe the U.S. just wants China to know they aren't the only ones who can shoot down a satellite. My vote is for the 3rd guess.
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      Option 4: all of the above
      Option 5: option four plus some shit we slashdotters haven't thought of
  • by sm62704 (957197) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:43PM (#22424496) Journal
    It's already coming down, isn't it? Wouldn';t they be shooting it UP?

    That makes a better headline anyway, "US To Shoot Up".
  • While it would be a nice demonstration of ASAT capability, I would think that if the US really has the capability that it would be better to keep it secret. Why tip your hand?

    If it is a matter of scaring their "enemies"*, they already have enough to be scared of... and they still cause trouble. If the test is successful, why give them a demo of what you would actually do so they have real world ideas of how to make counter-measures?

    *enemies the US really has to worry about couldn't make a sputnik with prese
    • While it would be a nice demonstration of ASAT capability, I would think that if the US really has the capability that it would be better to keep it secret.

      All the simulations in the world aren't worth 1 actual shot. And it's quite hard to keep a shot like this secret.
  • ... To notice that the "preferred" solution to any problem placed before George Bush is to launch an attack against it?

    -Goran
  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Thursday February 14, 2008 @03:16PM (#22424982) Homepage
    For a supposedly technical site, it seems very few Slashdotters are familiar with the tecnichal issues - or even bother to try. Rants before facts seems to be the motto.
     
    This is very unlikely to add to the space junk problem - because this bird is in a decaying orbit. You further reduce the chances by waiting as late as possible (when the bird has been greatly slowed). You further reduce the risks by arranging your intercept geometry such that few (or no) pieces are boosted towards or into stable orbits.
     
    It's not nearly as simple as "oh n0es, bl0w1ng stuffs up 1n spac3 m3ans mor3 spac3 junk !!11!!!1111!!111".
  • by kellyb9 (954229) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @03:18PM (#22425002)
    I've often wondered what aliens might think if they were to visit earth and see us shooting missles at our own satellites as means of getting them down. On one side of the coin, we might look really badass.

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