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The Military Space

US Claims Satellite Shoot-Down Success 616

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the hope-your-foil-hat-was-on-snug dept.
Readers of Slashdot last valentines day will remember discussing US Plans to Shoot down a damaged spy satellite. An anonymous reader noted that the US is reporting success last night, thus saving us from hydrazine exposure. Of course this makes me wonder- if it's this easy, wouldn't an international super power war pretty much immediately mean the downing of every satellite in orbit?
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US Claims Satellite Shoot-Down Success

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  • in other news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gmack (197796) <gmackNO@SPAMinnerfire.net> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:46AM (#22501372) Homepage Journal
    The US government has now tested it's anti satellite missiles without looking like complete hypocrites for criticizing China for the exact same thing.
    • Re:in other news (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sh00z (206503) <sh00z&yahoo,com> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:00AM (#22501502) Journal
      It wasn't an anti-satellite missile. It was an anti-missile missile [wikipedia.org], and it only worked because of the decayed orbit of the satellite. This missile would not be able to touch a "working" satellite.
      • by JamesP (688957) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:38AM (#22501962)
        It wasn't an anti-satellite missile. It was an anti-missile missile [wikipedia.org],

        I'm waiting for the anti-(anti-missile missile) missile
      • by illumin8 (148082) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:11AM (#22502430) Journal

        It wasn't an anti-satellite missile. It was an anti-missile missile, and it only worked because of the decayed orbit of the satellite. This missile would not be able to touch a "working" satellite.
        I read a really funny line on DailyKos yesterday about this:

        The US Navy announced that due to bad weather, it will postpone the attempt to shoot down the impaired satellite until tomorrow at the earliest. Our zillion dollar "star wars" technology is clearly capable of stopping incoming missiles so long as: they come one at a time, are the size of a school bus, travel in orbits that have been calculated for months, don't deploy any decoys, and the weather is clear.
    • Re:in other news (Score:5, Informative)

      by dyslexicbunny (940925) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @11:04AM (#22503234)
      I thought it was interesting looking through the international response to it.

      Russia goes on about us using it as a cover for anti-satellite testing. As sh00z [slashdot.org] mentioned, it's an anti-missile missile. Then they ramble about how toxic fuel has crashed to Earth before and how they think it isn't a big deal. But since we didn't know where it would exactly land and don't have the luxury or using Siberia or Kazakhstan as a crash site, there could be enough risk of exposure to civilians as it was projected to hit North America. Besides, I'd like to hope we shoot for a higher safety standard than Russia. They do a lot of really cool things for really cheap

      I found China's response is both hilarious and hypocritical. Their concern about security in space is a joke given that they hit a real satellite just last year. At 800 km against our 200 km! I think their test says more than ours in the international dick waving sense - plus a majority of their debris won't burn up within a week. I don't really see the two launches as apples to apples; more like China totaling a working 1993 Honda and the US totaling a 2007 BMW with a cracked engine block.

      Odds are quite good that it was really just to destroy the top secret components on the satellite. Fair enough since it's our tech and we don't like giving it away. The environmental concern with the hydrazine happens to be convenient whether as a cover or for real legitimate concern - hydrazine is nasty stuff regardless. As for a weapons test, the missile couldn't hit a satellite in use. It really could only be useful as both a cruise phase interceptor test and a cold tracking (no infrared) sensor test. Besides, it's been known for years that the US can hit working satellites - no need to flip out over hitting a lame bird.
  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:47AM (#22501380) Homepage Journal
    I took a look at the sky late last night, and it seems they took a chunk out of the Moon as well.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Dr. Cody (554864)
      * squinting my eyes *

      "C... H... A??"
  • priorities? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Twisted Willie (1035374) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:47AM (#22501382)

    if it's this easy, wouldn't an international super power war pretty much immediately mean the downing of every satellite in orbit?
    If this super power war were to actually happen, somehow I don't think satellites dropping out of the sky would be my first concern.
  • Video (Score:5, Informative)

    by groovelator (994174) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:53AM (#22501426) Homepage
    A video [ksdk.com]... A great success! Huzzah!
  • by mbaGeek (1219224) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @08:57AM (#22501466) Homepage

    the BBC talking heads (on the BBS world news this morning) were being generous when they said that there is "some discussion" about the United States' motives for the missile strike

    three possibilities were given:

    1. the US was showing that we have the ability to shoot down satellites (they described it as "shooting through the eye of a needle to hit the eye of a needle"),
    2. we wanted to keep sensitive information out of the hands of our "opponents" (James Bond plot alert!), or
    3. there might have actually been a health risk to letting the satellite reenter orbit (it should burn up now)

    I'm going to choose all of the above! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      I'm going for option 4:

      Some general woke up a couple of weeks ago and thought 'you know, we haven't shot at anything really fun for ages. I wonder if there are any satellites we could use for target practice.'

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      three possibilities were given:

      1. the US was showing that we have the ability to shoot down satellites (they described it as "shooting through the eye of a needle to hit the eye of a needle"),
      2. we wanted to keep sensitive information out of the hands of our "opponents" (James Bond plot alert!), or
      3. there might have actually been a health risk to letting the satellite reenter orbit (it should burn up now)

      I'm going to choose all of the above! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

      I believe #2 is the main reason, with #3 being a possible 'think of the children' reason. If by chance, the fuel from the satellite would have killed everyone within close proximity to it, then that would have been bad PR indeed.

      I think the US would have loved to have taken this satellite out WITHOUT shooting it down. We had nothing to prove. This just makes it ever more difficult for us to come down harder on the next guy that says he wants to shoot down a "failing" satellite. China could easily caus

  • by nexuspal (720736) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:06AM (#22501570)
    All of our weapons, bombs in particular, are guided primarily by inertial guidance systems. They rely on GPS simply to increase accuracy, though the GPS updates take a significant amount of time relative to the distance the bomb has dropped. The weapon relies on the inertial guidance for most of it's trip, using the GPS to correct for errors that occure over time because of physical constraints inherent in the inertial guidance systems. With or without GPS they will still be deadly accurate.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AceJohnny (253840)
      When can I have that inertial guidance in my Wiimotes?

      It's funny to think that it's basically the same technology, although the wiimote uses MEMS [wikipedia.org] accelerometers instead of high-precision gyroscopes (hence the error is way larger)
  • by Garrick68 (1165999) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:09AM (#22501608)
    I mean when looked at from a geeky stand point shooting down a high fast moving object from a ship based platform is rather cool.
  • Ob: Marvin (Score:4, Funny)

    by LMacG (118321) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:15AM (#22501676) Journal
    Where's the ka-boom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering ka-boom!
  • by thermowax (179226) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:21AM (#22501742)
    1. The US has shot down satellites before- in the 1980s. We've had this technology for a long time and everyone knows it. While there may be an element of dick-waving in this action, any nation with a developed intelligence infrastructure (or not, as it was in the press) has known for a long time that the US is capable of this.

    2. The likelihood of the propellant tank making it to Earth in a populated area while still sufficiently intact to release hydrazine on impact is infinitesimal. The satellite was launched in 12/06, and represents the pinnacle (well, a year ago) of US spy satellite technology. There's plenty of good coverage in The Washington Post that supports both of these points.

    Make no mistake about it, this is all about preventing the tech from falling into the wrong hands.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by phayes (202222)
      A similarly constructed hydrazine tank from Columbia made it back intact & containing some hydrazine so it's not so far fetched as many want to make it.

      Using the sat to test the SM-3 anti-missile saves millions as the sat is useless & an target platform will not need to be expended.

  • by Majin Bubu (455010) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:25AM (#22501806)
    Video of the intercept and relevant Pentagon briefing at:
    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=71c_1203596547 [liveleak.com]

    Like hitting a bullet with a bullet. Neat engineering feat.
  • by TheHawke (237817) <rchapin@nOSpam.pelicancoast.net> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:26AM (#22501810)
    Back in the 70's and 80's both sides had ASAT weapons available, or were in testing. The Soviet Union had their orbital satellite killer. Fired atop a Proton booster, it would make orbit and line up with it's target, close and detonate it's warhead, turning it into swiss cheese. The USAF had a more flexible ASAT missile that looked alot like a supersized Phoenix air to air missile. It was tested on one target with a spectacular skin-skin kill as a result before the politicals kicked in and put a moratorium in place to keep the peace. One upshot of the ASAT weapon is that it could hit targets on a moment's notice. The USSR killsat you could dodge, as long as you had the fuel to do it. Neither of these could hit the geosynchronous birds, they were tailored to go after recon and commsat snoopers.

    USN's Standard SM-3 missiles are their new Black and Decker tools of fleet defense. They pulled a preproduction bird off the table, loaded a ASAT seeker on it and sent it on it's way.

    A little bit more on the new theater missile interceptor;
    http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/systems/sm3.htm [globalsecurity.org]
  • So of course... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:31AM (#22501874) Homepage Journal
    ... this is irrefutable proof that our missile defense system is totally awesome, flawless, and deserving of billions of dollars of tax investment, right?
  • Summary Info (Score:5, Informative)

    by JumboMessiah (316083) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:40AM (#22502002)
    Ship that took the shot:
        USS Lake Erie [wikipedia.org]

    Missle Used:
        SM-3 [wikipedia.org] with kinetic interceptor [wikimedia.org]

    Tracking was probably provided by the SBX [wikipedia.org] amongst other sensors.

    Previous intercept videos of importance:

        Japan Defence SM-3 test [dailymotion.com]
        Prior shot from USS Lake Erie [youtube.com]

    The propaganda that I find really funny is the DoD stating that it "nailed" [cnn.com] the fuel tank. C'mon, the impact probably released over 100 megajoules of energy. Were they really aiming for the "fuel tank" or just trying to hit the damn thing? With that much energy, who cares?

    Big Dick waiving, yes. Technical success, yes. Political success, TBD.

    On a side note, I was reading a story [bwcinet.com] written by a guy who was stationed at Thule AFB in Greenland where one of the first BMEWS (Ballistic Missle Early Warning System) Radars was deployed back in the late 50's early 60's. From a tech standpoint, it is quite fascinating what we could do back then with such limited technology and how it was accomplished. Read the intro through the epilog, I enjoyed it, so I'm passing it along...

  • Not every one, (Score:4, Informative)

    by ZonkerWilliam (953437) * on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:43AM (#22502058) Journal

    wouldn't an international super power war pretty much immediately mean the downing of every satellite in orbit?
    Not really, most communication satellites are in geosynchronous orbit, 22,000 some odd miles out from LEO. Much harder and much longer to get there.
  • It could be worse! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mi (197448) <slashdot-2014@virtual-estates.net> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:45AM (#22502086) Homepage

    wouldn't an international super power war pretty much immediately mean the downing of every satellite in orbit?

    It could be worse:

    Nuclear war can ruin your whole compile.
    -- Karl Lehenbauer [wikipedia.org]
  • Pinata (Score:5, Funny)

    by jbeaupre (752124) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:35AM (#22502844)
    We have just witnessed the worlds most expensive pinata. With no candy. Next time they need to just pay a few bucks at the mercado, invite a few kids, and do it right.
  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:39AM (#22502908)
    I've seen the term "dick waving" quite enough for one day.

    Leave it to the Protocols of the Elders of Slashdot to put a negative spin on even this story.

    OK, you want conspiracy?

    Well, what *I* heard from my brother in law who knows a guy who reads the web site called thegovernmentislyingtoyou.org is that they are shooting down the spy satellite as a warning to the Space Station. It's basically NASA saying "We brought you into this world, and we can take you out of it."

    The astronauts will be taken from the Atlantis and flown directly to the Vatican (the *real* Vatican hidden under the Antarctic ice pack) where they must restate their loyalty oaths to the New World Order, or face prolonged sentences in pain amplification devices at Gitmo. Those patches on the spacesuits are actually agonizers.

    Seems those guys up there, especially when there's Russians on board, have been having whispered conversations (picked up by secret microphones placed on the ISS by the NSA, the DEA, the NRO, the Department of the Interior and the National Endowment for the Arts) involving phrases like "independent colony" and "breakaway republic in orbit" and similar subversive things.

    Oh, and according to enterprisemission.com, smokingscalarweapon.com and the Facebook page of a former alien abductee, the window for shooting down USA 193 is defined by the eclipsed moon passing through the seventh house of Jupiter, and the alignment of Mars with a portion of the sky identified in ancient Vedic texts describing a nuclear war in India in 14,000 B.C.
  • by jabber (13196) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @11:51AM (#22503950) Homepage
    The fact that the missile used shot down a satellite does not mean that the purpose here was to see if we could shoot down a satellite. Look here...

    The Chinese took out one of their telecomm birds last year. It was 500 miles up and in steady orbit. That was a sat-kill test.

    The US spy satellite was a) 150 miles up, b) in unstable orbit and c) a spy sat.
    Destroying the super-secret spy technology on the satellite was a bonus.
    The shoot down was a test of whether US anti-ICBM systems worked as intended. THIS was the whole point. We've done contrived tests of the missile defense technology before, but here was an opportunity to shoot down a real, faster moving, unpredictably moving target.

    Shooting down satellites in stable orbit isn't hard. The challenge is getting a missile up there, and the US has this technology locked. Shooting down a very fast moving object that is coming at you in a more or less unpredictable way is tough. The success of this test makes China and Russia nervous not about their satellites but about their ability to lob missiles.

    As for all-our space-war, the challenge would be to be selective. The EMP from a small number of well placed nukes would fry the electronics of nearly every communication and weather satellite in space, not to mention taking the GPS system out of commission. Only a low-tech rogue nation with nuclear weapons, like N. Korea or Iran would in any way benefit from such tactics.

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