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USA 193 Shootdown Set For Feb 21, 03:30 UTC 358

Posted by kdawson
from the gardyloo-in-the-pacific dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Amateur satellite watcher Ted Molczan notes that a "Notice to Airmen" (NOTAM) has been issued announcing restricted airspace for February 21, between 02:30 and 05:00 UTC, in a region near Hawaii. Stricken satellite USA 193, which the US has announced plans to shoot down, will pass over this area at about 03:30. Interestingly, this is during the totality of Wednesday's lunar eclipse, which may or may not make debris easier to observe."
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USA 193 Shootdown Set For Feb 21, 03:30 UTC

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  • I wonder (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cslax (1215816) on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:21PM (#22469988)
    if they chose the eclipse date on purpose. We'll wait and see what they say AFTER it all happens.
    • While perhaps a bit unconventional, there's a lot to be said for our government's decisive action here that could prevent a small-scale disaster if the satellite were to hit the ground. It seems like the prudent thing to do.

      *cough*THEL*cough*
      • by Rei (128717) on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:57PM (#22470320) Homepage
        I find it quaint, the notion that the real reason they have to shoot the satellite down is because it has a tank of hydrazine onboard. Meanwhile, the Russians have let *freaking nuclear reactors* reenter our atmosphere. It's pretty transparent that they're A) trying to upstage the Chinese, and B) prevent any tech from making it into the hands of hostile parties. Even more transparent than the whole thing with A.Q. Kahn:

        1) Pakistan funds its bloody nuclear program via nuclear equipment sales.
        2) The international community eventually can no longer look the other way.
        3) Khan steps forward. "Whoops, it was me! My bad. Every sale we made to every single country, I arranged, negotiated, and shipped everything, all with government aircraft, all of my own. No Musharraf involvement, nosiree!"
        4) Bush and Musharraf: "Bad Khan! Well, that case is solved."
        5) "House arrest", of the kind that lets you travel across the country. No charges pressed. Everyone wins.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2008 @10:18PM (#22470470)

          I find it quaint, the notion that the real reason they have to shoot the satellite down is because it has a tank of hydrazine onboard. Meanwhile, the Russians have let *freaking nuclear reactors* reenter our atmosphere.
          No offense, but comparing safety concerns of the US with the Russians is sort of bizarre. They are the country that used to just drop old reactor cores in the oceans after all. I honestly don't think they cared that they tossed radioactive waste across Canada any more than they cared what would happen when they build enormous nuclear reactors without containment domes. And if you think these are minor issues of environment protection then look up their involvement in the Aral Sea disaster. Russia is the antithesis [worldfrontpage.com] of environmental protection.
          • by Rei (128717) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @01:30AM (#22471714) Homepage
            At least they never dared launch anything as crazy as Starfish Prime [wikipedia.org].

            We are not the immaculate custodians of space that you seem to be picturing. Why, do you think, did we not shoot down the Delta II second stage that reentered in 1997 with a large amount of residual hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide onboard? We have stages with signficant amounts of toxic residual fuel reenter all the time. Why, in the same year, when we had a Delta II explode *full* on liftoff, did the Air Force tell people in the *immediate area* that the smoke posed no danger? This was a *full launch vehicle*, not just a satellite's orbital maneuvering system. Do you have any idea how much beryllium we've had reenter? We sit by as large amounts of toxic materials enter all the time. As for the hydrazine itself, what do you think happens *on its own* to pressurized tanks of highly flammable fluids on reentry? I can't think of a *single* sizable object that's survived reentry still pressuretight.

            The argument is completely bogus.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by deKernel (65640)
              First off, the US has NEVER claimed to be the "...immaculate custodians of space..." like you claim.
              Second off, regarding the Delta II second stage, it was believed based upon its size, speed, trajectory and form that it would burn up on reentry so the belief was we were OK. We know for sure that the satellite will survive reentry so we are trying to be proactive.

              Do we allow toxic material to reenter, Yes. Do we believe based upon size, speed, trajectory and such that the material will burn up, Yes. Can we
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by palegray.net (1195047)
            The Russians didn't drop old reactor cores into the ocean. They merely took a wrong turn on the way to ecologically responsible long-term storage facilities. Darn that Mapquest and its outdated Siberian directions. It was an honest mistake, Comrade.
        • by TapeCutter (624760) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @01:09AM (#22471624) Journal
          The reactors sent into orbit are supposedly built to withstand re-entry and a crash landing. Firing explosives at a reator in LEO and potentially spreading fairy dust everywhere is probably worse than letting it form a crater in the ground where contamination can be contained.

          Regardless of the 'real reason', shooting down the hydrazine is a GoodThing(TM).
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Rei (128717)
            It doesn't work that way. Nothing manmade reenters all in one place and leaves a "crater". Debris generally gets scattered along a trail across a thousand miles or two in chunks.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Myuu (529245)
          Uh, what? The A.Q. Khan network existed years before Bush and Musharraf.
        • by oni (41625) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @09:51AM (#22474068) Homepage
          It's pretty transparent that they're A) trying to upstage the Chinese, and B) prevent any tech from making it into the hands of hostile parties.

          the only thing that's transparent is your bias. If they didn't try to shoot it down you'd claim it was "transparent" they didn't want to show the Chinese that they're capable of shooting it down, so they put lives at risk instead. In my opinion, you're one of those people who will criticize the US regardless of what it does.

          "A) trying to upstage the Chinese." Here's a test of the system that will be used to shoot it down [youtube.com]. As you can see, they've already hit targets in space. So shooting the satellite isn't that much of a stretch. It's hardly fair to characterize it as "upstaging" anyone.

          "B) prevent any tech from making it into the hands of hostile parties" yes, because it's a big secret that spy satellites contain (whispers) cameras. shhh, don't tell anyone. It'd be a disaster if Al Queda found out. They might mount the camera on a donkey and fire it into orbit with a catapult.

          Come on people. Occam's razor. We know that hydrazine is actually deadly. We know that Columbia's hydrazine tanks survived reentry. Colubia's tanks were empty, but this satellite's tanks will be full. The simplest explanation is that attempting to shoot it down doesn't increase the risk, but may substantially reduce the risk to humans. There's no down side. So that's why they're doing it. Take off your tin foil hat.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Rei (128717)
            Wow, you're really unimaginative if all you can picture being on a satellite is cameras. Just as one possible example (among many, many possibilities): The US has spent the last decade trying to launch "stealth satellites". It has become the ultimate game for satellite spotters to try and find them. Not only do they regularly adjust their orbits, but they are believed to use articulated mirrors to try and reflect almost all light that hits them away from the Earth or onto remote locations, thus making th
    • ...if they chose the eclipse date at all. Isn't Wednesday the 20th, not the 21st?
      • It's the night of Wednesday 20 or the morning of Thursday 21, depending on where you are in the world.
    • Re:I wonder (Score:5, Funny)

      by dwater (72834) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @12:18AM (#22471302)
      wow, the USA is powerful after all - they can arrange for the ecplise to happen on a day of their choosing. amazing.
    • Re:I wonder (Score:5, Funny)

      by STrinity (723872) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @01:35AM (#22471740) Homepage
      Hydrazine+lunar eclipse=zombies!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:21PM (#22469990)
    ... they're going to use a pop bottle [slashdot.org] to do the deed.
  • Good coverage (Score:5, Informative)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:21PM (#22469996) Homepage Journal
    Bruce is a fellow satellite spotter [utah.edu] also with some degree of background and in the subject matter and has good coverage here [and-still-i-persist.com].

    • Re:Good coverage (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:38PM (#22470154)
      There is also some interesting analysis done by the Federation of American Scientists that suggests this is just an excuse to test out some anti-satellite missiles. An interesting read.

      http://www.fas.org/blog/ssp/2008/02/us_plans_test_of_anti-satellit.php [fas.org]
      • Re:Good coverage (Score:4, Informative)

        by T-Bone-T (1048702) on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:50PM (#22470256)
        Interestingly, none of my AFROTC teachers would let us use FAS as a source in any of our briefings or papers because they only know just enough of what they shouldn't know to be dangerous.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by DerekLyons (302214)
          That's pretty much a fair summary. When it comes to hard numbers and real facts (I.E. the stuff I know from my USN experience or from research matches their data closely), they are kinda trustworthy - but when it comes to analysis they are out to lunch. Way, way out to lunch.
      • Re:Good coverage (Score:5, Insightful)

        by twiddlingbits (707452) on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:56PM (#22470312)

        FAS always raises hell over weapons tests of any kind. What else is new.

        The SM-2 to be used is actually being MODIFIED with new software to try to do the intercept. It's not certain it'll work. So I guess that makes it a test.

        The eclipse likely makes it easier to spot the "target".

        But at least we aren't leaving a shitload of crap to fuck up usuable orbit space like the ChiComms did in their ASAT test. This bird is coming down NOW so why not test on it. It's cheap, if it works maybe we have a new use for an existing system w/o spending millions, we clean up our own mess by shooting it down, the debris will come down (with some risk as it's smaller pieces) and not clutter the crap out of orbital space, and we trash anything secret the enemy might try to capture (assuming it survived re-entry..but why risk it?). Sounds like a bargin "test" to me.
      • Re:Good coverage (Score:5, Interesting)

        by v1 (525388) on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:58PM (#22470334) Homepage Journal
        I wonder what they mean by "shoot down"? It's not like an airplane, that if damaged, can't stay flying and falls to earth. If you blow up a big satellite, you end up with a bunch of little satellites, and that doesn't make them de-orbit much faster does it? I was under the understanding that blowing up stuff in space is BAD and creates a major headache more of space debris. I suppose if you really wanted to de-orbit a dead satellite you'd want to shoot a missile at it that would attach, and fire retro rockets to slow it down so it would degrade its orbit enough to hit atmosphere were it would be pulled down on its own from there.

        • Re:Good coverage (Score:4, Informative)

          by RedWizzard (192002) on Monday February 18, 2008 @10:09PM (#22470424)
          They're not shooting at it to make it de-orbit, it's already de-orbiting. They are shooting at it to make sure that the hydrazine fuel tank doesn't make it down to Earth intact (or worse, almost intact).
          • Re:Good coverage (Score:5, Interesting)

            by XorNand (517466) on Monday February 18, 2008 @10:35PM (#22470590)
            Yeah right... The fact that it's a two-year old, highly-classified spy satellite has nothing to do with it. The *real* reason that they're spending $60M is to make sure that some fuel doesn't contaminate an acre or so of land.
            • Re:Good coverage (Score:5, Insightful)

              by hax0r_this (1073148) on Monday February 18, 2008 @10:51PM (#22470682)
              Well, there may be some truth to it. But like most decisions, there are a lot of things at work here:

              1. Having a giant hydrazine tank land on someone's house would be a PR nightmare.

              2. Having a spy satellite presumably filled with highly-classified stuff fall into the wrong hands is something They(tm) try to avoid.

              3. Demonstrating to the rest of the world that we can blow their satellites into much less useful pieces is somewhat in line with the agenda of the Bush administration.

              4. It can also be pointed to as a success of the missile defense program.

              So I wouldn't write off the whole hydrazine tank issue entirely, but I doubt its the primary motivator.
            • Re:Good coverage (Score:5, Interesting)

              by RedWizzard (192002) on Monday February 18, 2008 @10:52PM (#22470694)

              Yeah right... The fact that it's a two-year old, highly-classified spy satellite has nothing to do with it. The *real* reason that they're spending $60M is to make sure that some fuel doesn't contaminate an acre or so of land.
              Nothing useful in terms of spy gear is going to make it through re-entry. What might make it through re-entry is a large, resilient fuel tank containing high-toxic, probably carcinogenic, fuel. Logic dictates that if there was really something classified on the satellite that they didn't want to survive re-entry they simply would have designed it to not survive re-entry or they would have installed a self-destruct. Shooting it down at this point for the reason you're implying doesn't make sense.

              Besides, if it's the gear (rather than the fuel) that concerns them then why haven't they bothered shooting down other de-orbiting sats in the past?

              • Along the lines of the self-destruct, I agree that a satellite which absolutely could not be allowed to return to Earth intact would be built with the proper destructive methods.

                However, a self-destruct would also be useful in cases just like this, where the danger is not classified information, but hazardous materials. I am assuming that satellites are usually launched with the anticipation of decaying orbits, so why not build satellites with standard self-destruct for cases like this?
                It seems like a
                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by Martin Blank (154261)
                  Because it's an accident waiting to happen. These satellites can cost anywhere from a few hundred million to a billion dollars, and to lose it because a software glitch causes the self-destruct system to go off would be bad. In addition, an explosive self-destruct system could litter orbit with debris.

                  The best thing to do when a satellite needs to be removed from orbit is to de-orbit it with thrusters. Unfortunately, the computer on this satellite flaked completely soon after launch, and the de-orbit sys
                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by chihowa (366380)

                  ...why not build satellites with standard self-destruct for cases like this?

                  First, a self destruct mechanism would add mass to the satellite, which takes mass away from other gear you'd like to add.

                  Secondly, if your satellite is not functioning, like this one, how would you activate the self-destruct mechanism?*

                  A possible third is security. What if "the enemy" were to get a hold of the self-destruct codes for all of our satellites? Shooting down a satellite with a missile is a much more costly and traceable event than sending out a radio signal and quietly killing them as th

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by rahvin112 (446269)

                Nothing useful in terms of spy gear is going to make it through re-entry. What might make it through re-entry is a large, resilient fuel tank containing high-toxic, probably carcinogenic, fuel. Logic dictates that if there was really something classified on the satellite that they didn't want to survive re-entry they simply would have designed it to not survive re-entry or they would have installed a self-destruct. Shooting it down at this point for the reason you're implying doesn't make sense.

                Besides, if

            • Three reasons (Score:5, Interesting)

              by jmichaelg (148257) on Monday February 18, 2008 @10:58PM (#22470728) Journal
              I think there are three reasons they're spending $60 M to destroy the satellite. They are
              1. They don't want a repeat of Skylab where parts landed in Australia and made us look bad.
              2. If it comes down in Russia (Russia spans 11 time zones so that's not too unlikely) they don't want the Russians to be able to figure out much from the debris.
              3. They want a chance to test their anti-satellite weaponry on a real target that isn't saying "Over here! I'm over here! Here I am! Yoo Hoo!"
              There's actually a 4th reason - blowing stuff up is fun but they would never cop to it.
            • Re:Good coverage (Score:5, Informative)

              by twiddlingbits (707452) on Monday February 18, 2008 @11:02PM (#22470764)
              Go look up Hydrazine (mono-methyl or di-methyl) and it's dangers. Tell ya what..heres the link to Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monomethylhydrazine [wikipedia.org] and OSHA http://www.osha.gov/dts/chemicalsampling/data/CH_255500.html [osha.gov] Think about how dangerous it is and how much of it is onboard (50kg or so). Then think about how much a good ambulance chaser aka "personal injury" lawyer could make off said dangers by suing Boeing, the Government and who knows else if someone's land was "contaminated" and there was an "injury". Then get back to me about if $60M is expensive.
              • Re:Good coverage (Score:4, Insightful)

                by coolmoose25 (1057210) on Monday February 18, 2008 @11:49PM (#22471076)
                I think this hydrazine thing is a red-herring. Think about it for a minute. So they say it's frozen, and in a really strong tank. But once that tank starts re-entering, the valves and hoses to it will be torn free. The heat of re-entry is going to unfreeze at least part of it. Now you've got venting ROCKET FUEL in the heat of a re-entry. I say at that point, the tank goes BOOM and there is nothing left... I think the real reason we are shooting this bird down is that it was launched in 2006 and has all our latest cool spy gadgets on it. We don't want them in an enemy's hands. So they cooked up this whole "hydrazine" problem to make it look like they are doing the world a favor. And they probably are. But I don't think its the hydrazine that is the problem here...
                • by usul294 (1163169) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @12:58AM (#22471538)
                  I had a chat with my grandfather who works on attitude control systems for commercial satellites about hydrazine. Hydrazine is used for attitude control and orbit stabilization. Since contact was never made with this USA 193, the hydrazine tank should be full. The ignition for hydrazine is heat, so all they do to fire it is have a little toaster that ignites a little bit of fuel at a time. Because the ignition source is heat, the hydrazine tank has to be incredibly well insulated to maintain a constant temperature. If the tank were to survive reentry, by being shielded by other components melting off, it would most likely rupture when it hit the ground at terminal velocity. Hydrazine is a pretty serious hazmat, and even a small concentration of that into your system will do serious, potentially permanent or even fatal damage to your lungs. Even worse, the hydrazine could ignite upon hitting the Earth and cause a small explosion, though the gas leak is more likely. If you took the surface of the earth and divided it into 1 acre chunks, I doubt more than 5% of those acres would have people in them( figure 10% of the Earth is inhabited, and large portions of that are farm) Nevertheless, a 1/20 chance of killing/permanently damaging anywhere from 1(hits near Bear Grylls in the desert) to 10,000 people(hits Rio), it certainly seems like a politically influenced decision to get rid of a potential disaster.
        • Re:Good coverage (Score:5, Informative)

          by SoapBox17 (1020345) on Monday February 18, 2008 @10:22PM (#22470492) Homepage
          It is also very important to note that the missile they are shooting it with does not have a warhead. They are basically just hitting it really hard, hoping to break it into pieces.
        • Re:Good coverage (Score:5, Insightful)

          by icebrain (944107) on Monday February 18, 2008 @10:33PM (#22470572)
          I'd expect that shooting a satellite whose orbit is already decaying might hasten the process by a couple days (smaller pieces would generally have a lower ballistic coefficient and therefore decay faster), but not by a significant amount.

          The real benefit (to the US) is that turning a big, expensive satellite with lots of classified equipment on board into a bunch of little satellites means that the expensive bits are rendered unusable and far less likely to get to the ground intact, where they can be analyzed. It also provides a good opportunity to test a new missile system, and shows the Chinese that the US can play at their game, too.
    • Date confirmed (Score:3, Informative)

      by daveschroeder (516195) *
      ...and the date has been confirmed [cnn.com]
  • by bluelip (123578) on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:22PM (#22470008) Homepage Journal
    A super secret sat is not responding for unknown reasons. This requires a shootdown which just happens to occur during a lunar eclipse.

    Wow, who gets the movie rights for this one?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:23PM (#22470012)
    They're shooting it down not because it might hit and blow up, but because it might hit and not blow up, and yield a lot of classified hardware/software for some enterprising person(s) to pick up.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:34PM (#22470116)
      Actually, the classified hardware/software will burn up on reentry. Their more concerned about the full tank of hydrazine that would survive a normal reentry and create a hazardous materials nightmare near a populated area. Since they suspect it is going to come down near Hawaii, I'd love to see some sort of Taco Bell stunt where TB gives away free tacos if the satellite lands in a volcano during the eclipse.
      • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Monday February 18, 2008 @11:34PM (#22470964)
        Actually, the classified hardware/software will burn up on reentry. Their more concerned about the full tank of hydrazine that would survive a normal reentry and create a hazardous materials nightmare near a populated area.

        That's certainly believable if you can take Deputy National Security Advisor James Jeffrey at his word:

        Yesterday, Deputy National Security Advisor James Jeffrey said the satellite's tank full of hydrazine rocket propellant was the main reason the military was planning to blast the orbiter. There's a small but real risk that the hydrazine tank could rupture, releasing a "toxic gas" over a "populated area," causing a "risk to human life."
        Apparently man-made objects containing hydrazine propellant frequently rain down from the sky without incident, according to rocket scientists and space security experts [wired.com] who "scoff" at this rationale. And Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright doesn't seem too impressed either. But surely our Deputy National Security Advisor knows something about hydrazine that we don't.

        Now who is this man James Jeffrey, you may ask?

        It took more than two months, but the White House has finally found a new deputy national security adviser. And in the end, the administration didn't have to look very far.
        President Bush will appoint Ambassador James Jeffrey, a high-level State Department official who coordinates its Iran policy, according to people familiar with the matter. Jeffrey's appointment will be made later today, these people said.
        In his new post, Jeffrey will be National Security Adviser Steve Hadley's No. 2 and run most of the day-to-day operations of the National Security Council. The administration's new war czar, Deputy National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. Doug Lute, will take part in regular deputy's meetings chaired by Jeffrey.
        Jeffrey, a blunt-spoken and often-profane diplomat, will replace J.D. Crouch, an architect of the administration's controversial Iraq surge who resigned in May. Jeffrey has spent more time in Iraq than any other senior administration official. Prior to assuming his State Department post, he was the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad from June 2004 to March 2005, and as U.S. charge d'affaires to Iraq from March to June 2005.
        A colleague of Jeffrey's said that the White House would likely prove to be a better fit than the State Department had been. The colleague noted that Jeffrey is a staunch neoconservative, which left him often sharply at odds with other high-level State Department officials. Most of the neocons who once populated the administration left their posts in recent years as the Iraq war went off the skids. At the White House, though, Jeffrey will be able to work closely with two of the other surviving neocons: Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams and David Wurmser, one of Vice President Dick Cheney's top foreign policy staffers.
        Source: Wall Street Journal, [wsj.com] July 19, 2007, four months before the information in the Iran NIE would be exposed, having been known to the White House since 2006.

        This guy sounds totally not full of shit at all!
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DerekLyons (302214)

          Apparently man-made objects containing hydrazine propellant frequently rain down from the sky without incident, according to rocket scientists and space security experts who "scoff" at this rationale.

          Well... This is one of those cases where there 'scientists' and 'experts' only tell half the truth - the half that supports an anti-Administration agenda. The other half of the truth is... all the cases they cite have roughly zip point nada in common with USA-193. In those cases, the tanks are empty or near

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by djupedal (584558)
      Not...

      This is simply an excuse to play tit-for-tat w/the Chinese over their all ready having demonstrated alacrity at blowing sats out of the ionosphere.
  • by isomeme (177414) <cdberry@gmail.com> on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:23PM (#22470016) Homepage Journal
    Since that time interval occurs during daylight hours near Hawaii, with the eclipsed moon (necessarily) below the horizon, I doubt the eclipse will have much effect on visibility. :)
    • by tomhudson (43916)

      Yep - Hawaii - UTC - 10, so 03:30 UTC is definitely during the afternoon.

    • You're assuming the missile is taking the short way around to the satellite ;-)
  • by zymano (581466) on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:24PM (#22470026)
    50's called. They want their missiles back.
  • by Daimanta (1140543) on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:26PM (#22470044) Journal
    This post may or may not be a way to tell you that may or may not is a totally ambigious statement. Some people may or may not notice this. I may or may not be modded Offtopic but I can also be modded +1 Funny or +1 Insightfull. However, this may or may not be the case.
  • Woo! (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Jethro (14165)
    Am I the only one who thinks this is TOTALLY COOL???

    Sure it might be dangerous and stupid, too, but hey.
  • by Bob54321 (911744) on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:35PM (#22470128)

    which may or may not make debris easier to observe
    Way to limit the two choices down to two choices....
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:39PM (#22470168) Homepage
    An airplane needs an engine to fly, and when that engine is destroyed and crashes somewhere near where you shot it down. A satellite needs no engine to fly, and when you shoot at it, it becomes thousands of little satellites, all of which continue to "fly" at 25,000 miles per hour.

    I hope the people shooting at (not "down") this satellite have seen "Fantasia." In _The Sorceror's Apprentice,_ Mickey Mouse decides that the best way to deal with an out-of-control magic broom is to chop it into thousands of pieces... all of which just keep right on going, making the problem worse instead of better.

    • Unlike that example case, the many pieces of the satellite will not grow back into a whole satellite again. Each peice will be less massive and therefor less destructive upon impact with what will likely be the ocean if the attempt is successful.
    • by isomeme (177414) <cdberry@gmail.com> on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:50PM (#22470258) Homepage Journal
      The thing's low enough that all of it -- intact or in pieces -- will deorbit soon (days to weeks). And actually, smaller debris deorbits faster; there's more surface area per volume (and hence per mass), so drag from the not-quite-vacuum of the upper atmosphere decelerates small pieces faster.
    • An airplane needs an engine to fly, and when that engine is destroyed and crashes somewhere near where you shot it down. A satellite needs no engine to fly, and when you shoot at it, it becomes thousands of little satellites, all of which continue to "fly" at 25,000 miles per hour.

      They might be counting on transferring enough momentum to the object for it to deorbit half an orbit later. That would put it over Africa, Asia and (possibly) Europe in longitude. I am not sure about latitude. I know that USA193 has an inclination of 60 degrees but that just ensures that it will be over land when crossing the longitude of Africa.

      .

    • by jamesh (87723)

      "Fantasia." In _The Sorceror's Apprentice,_ Mickey Mouse decides that the best way to deal with an out-of-control magic broom is to chop it into thousands of pieces... all of which just keep right on going, making the problem worse instead of better.


      I liked the Itchy and Scratchy version better. It makes a better analogy too - when we breathe in the little tiny pieces of satellite, they will dissolve us from the inside out!
  • by CSMatt (1175471)
    Who's going to film this and post it?
  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:43PM (#22470198) Homepage Journal
    That this is just a response to China's ASAT test of January last year?

    China: you see, we can blow up your satellites!!
    USA: aha! We can blow up your satellites too!!

    General public: Why are they blowing up satellites?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jonpublic (676412)
      obviously its just the government in a pissing contest with china.

      its not like there are pesky differences between the two, like one was in high orbit, one is about to enter the atmosphere with toxic cargo and the potential to kill people if it lands in the wrong area.
      • by QuantumG (50515)
        pah. No-one who knows anything about sats has any serious belief that this re-entry is any more of a danger to the general public than any other re-entry. The claims that sat might contain classified information that the military want to destroy is about as credible - i.e., not.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      Oh so close. Try this instead:

      China: you see, we can blow up your satellites!!
      USA: Ahah! We can blow up our satellites too!!

  • Just the facts. (Score:4, Informative)

    by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:49PM (#22470248) Homepage
    I doubt the lunar eclipse has anything to do with it. The timing is almost certainly based on the need to get the SBX [wikipedia.org] to sea and in position (it's not exactly a speedboat), and the best orbital conditions for the shot. The location was almost certainly based on the SBX being in Hawaii and having nice long empty stretches of ocean downrange for the SM-3 missile. (Both for the booster and for the payload to fall if it misses.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TooMuchToDo (882796)
      Thanks for bringing the SBX to my attention. I was aware we had cool toys, but not THIS cool:

      The radar is described by Lt. Gen Trey Obering (director of MDA) as being able to track an object the size of a baseball over San Francisco in California from the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, approximately 2900 miles. The radar will guide land-based missiles from Alaska and California, as well as in-theatre assets.

      The platform has many small radomes for various communications tasks and a central, large dome that encloses and protects a phased-array, 1,814 tonnes (4,000,000 pound) X band radar antenna. The radar is described as being 384 square meters, with "well over" 30,000 transmit-receive modules, which are arranged in a widely-spaced configuration. This configuration allows it to support the very-long-range target discrimination and tracking that GMD's midcourse segment requires. The array requires over a megawatt of power.

      If I was a trillionare, I would buy TWO of them.

  • by PPH (736903) on Monday February 18, 2008 @09:50PM (#22470260)
    No doubt goats will be slaughtered, wiccans consulted, and pentagrams drawn all in the hope that our missile intercept technology will actually work in a non-staged event.
    • And if it works? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tjstork (137384)
      No doubt goats will be slaughtered, wiccans consulted, and pentagrams drawn all in the hope that our missile intercept technology will actually work in a non-staged event.

      And if it works? What then? How many successful test intercepts do you need before you think that the thing might actually work? Seriously, the only reason some folks are arguing that they don't think missile defense can work is because they do not like the politics of it. Eventually, missile defense can and will work. It's just an eng
  • I demand a front row seat. I helped pay for the satellite and the missile to kill it. At least they could offer to sit me on my lawn chair with my cooler full of beer to watch it.

    No?

    OK fine. I would pay extra to put my lawn chair and cooler full of beer on the cruiser. I wanna big screen display hanging off the bridge with a feed from the ISS.

    No! What? Regulations my Ass!

    Fucking US government can't even generate revenue from what should be a spectacular PPV event.

    Enjoy,
  • Get a Video! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eternalnyte (765741) on Monday February 18, 2008 @10:09PM (#22470432)
    Are there any Slashdotters here in Hawaii?? Surely a missile zooming up to shoot down a satellite would be visible, would it not?
  • Surely we will see, due to a "technical mistake", that the missile will just coincidently hit a Chinese, Russian, or Middle Eastern satellite. Or perhaps they will use this to draw everyone to Hawaii and shoot off a 2nd missile at an enemy satellite while everyone is busy.

    What will they blame this on? Since they have already used "a ship dropped it's anchor on the wire" for the Middle East Internet blackout, so here's some good excuses for our classic government:
    • "Our technician split coffee on the launch co
  • by Is0m0rph (819726) on Monday February 18, 2008 @10:51PM (#22470680)
    I'm surprised we didn't outsource this to China.
  • My dream... (Score:3, Funny)

    by FoolsGold (1139759) on Monday February 18, 2008 @10:53PM (#22470696)
    I really hope the weapons officer who gets to push the missile-firing button says: "ASSIMILATE THIS!!!"

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

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