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The Military Space

US Claims Satellite Shoot-Down Success 616

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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  • by falcon5768 ( 629591 ) <Falcon5768.comcast@net> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:46AM (#22501368) Journal
    Its been pretty much confirmed by everyone, the hazards of the fuel where nil. This was all a dickwaving scheme by the military who not too long ago was up in arms over China doing the EXACT same thing but being upfront about it being a test and not using a falling sat as a scheme to show off.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:57AM (#22501456)
    High orbit and low orbit are not even close to the same thing in regards to space junk causing trouble. China's mess will stay up there for decades or even centuries.
  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @09:58AM (#22501478)
    The downing of every non-US allied satellite, you mean.

    When everyone can destroy satellites, why should the US allied sats survive ?

  • Re:in other news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sh00z ( 206503 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {z00hs}> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:00AM (#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 stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:03AM (#22501524) Homepage Journal
    We've been able to shoot down satellites since the 80's. I'm not sure what we gave away here.
  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:05AM (#22501566) Homepage Journal
    Because frankly given a choice between China running over the world or the US I would much prefer the latter. The way the world bends over backward for China; forced abortions, daily Taiwan threat, incredible number of deaths in mines, world leader in executions; makes me wonder just what the hell is everyone so bent out of shape about the US doing this?

    At least the US didn't dump hundreds of objects into space because of some idiocy guided test as did China. Hell you could claim the threat is about nil for any space object falling from the sky, the problem is that nil becomes a really big number when it lands in your backyard.

    Go and keep waving that dick, it just lets the loonies of the world know that they really aren't in a position to ignore the US or Europe (because I count Europe in a lot of these things - don't for a momnet believe they didn't want it to work). Dick waving is a helluva lot better than throwing actual bombs with little Mr. Mushrooms around
  • by Garrick68 ( 1165999 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:09AM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:18AM (#22501716)
    Which was the whole point of this exercise. The US thought the tank would survive reentry and they fired the missile with the purpose of rupturing the hydrazine tank. People need to easy on the cool-aid conspiracies, the anti-missile missile they used isn't even capable of reaching high-orbit so this isn't a anti-satellite weapons test.
  • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:21AM (#22501740) Journal
    Really? Considering that the US shot down a satellite over two decades ago [svengrahn.pp.se], from a missile fired from an F15 of all things, I don't think the USA had a whole lot to prove. In fact, I think the military people are smart enough to not give any inkling of just what they are capable of (like the amazing fact the F-117A stealth fighter was kept secret for so long, until its unveiling during Desert Storm).

    What irked me the most was China's whiny statements about the test, which was extremely benign in every regard, while China themselves produced a huge band of debris in a very useful polar orbit for no legitimate reason whatsoever.
  • by toleraen ( 831634 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:21AM (#22501746)

    Probably because then we'd stop buying from WalMart and the economy would completely tank.
    Indeed, that massive trade deficit is really helping our economy.
  • So of course... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:31AM (#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?
  • by falcon5768 ( 629591 ) <Falcon5768.comcast@net> on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:33AM (#22501896) Journal
    The US didnt at all think it. Not one scientist involved said it would survive. The US military use the Space Shuttle as their example of it surviving without pointing out the facts that

    1) The Shuttle didnt break up till much further along re-entry.

    2) Prior to breakup the Shuttle was in a much more stable de-orbit.

    3) That the shuttle has a ton more shielding between it and its hydrazine to prevent it from even coming close to the hydrazine boiling point than the Sat which was never made to re-enter the atmosphere had.

    Everyone involved who has no connection to the military has been very vocal about the fact its a government coverup and there was little to no danger at all.

  • by Cornelius the Great ( 555189 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:40AM (#22501988)

    During reentry the temperature would get so high that the hydrazine would boil, and rupture the hoses and piping system, not to mention rupture the tank it's stored in. Once that happens, since it's so reactive, it would burn up in a matter of seconds.

    Why would you simply assume this would happen? For all we know, the hydrazine could be insulated well enough that it would survive reentry only to break open on impact. Keep in mind that they need to design the tanks to be more than adequate enough to hold together during launch as well as any possibility of aborted launches- it's more than likely that said tank would stay together upon reentry, right? After all, if we can make containers that can keep worms alive [bbc.co.uk] during a shuttle breakup, what makes you think we can't make tanks storing a reactive chemical that would stay intact upon reentry?

    Either you have classified info about the satellite, or you're simply talking out your ass. I'm willing to put money on the latter.
  • by JustASlashDotGuy ( 905444 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:41AM (#22502014)

    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 cause one of their junk satellite to de-orbit "accidentally" next month just for an excuse to shoot it down.

    Just being able to say "Look how accurate our missles are!", it's worth the conspiracy theories or potential pissing match that is sure to result. Drawing direct attention to your possible hypocrisies doesn't make good politics.

  • by Binestar ( 28861 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:42AM (#22502028) Homepage
    I am not a rocket scientist and neither are you, but I have been told by a satellite guy that the hydrazine has to last for the entire duration of the satellite's mission, and so the tank is extremely well insulated. It may survive re-entry with at least some content. If you want to dig up another satellite guy with a contrary opinion, go right ahead. It's a moot point, though, since neither of us is going to find a guy willing to talk about this particular classified satellite.

    Insulated != Protected against re-entry. It was protected against the cold of space, not the heat of re-entry. I wear a raincoat to protect against getting wet in the rain, that doesn't mean I won't get wet if I jump in the ocean. Even if the tank were covered by the tiles that protect the space shuttle (which BTW is one of the reasons the Shuttle Hydrazine tank survived reentry, other reasons are it was on a stable deorbit, was protected by the shuttle itself, and the shuttle didn't break up until much later in reentry than this satellite would have.) then the hoses and the piping to the other parts of the satellite would have burned away, and opened up the tank for hydrazine to "leak" out.
  • by toleraen ( 831634 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:48AM (#22502124)
    Do you have the schematics of the satellite? Probably a dumb question on my part, but how do you know that there was nothing but a layer of steel surrounding the tank?
  • by workindev ( 607574 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:53AM (#22502192) Homepage
    I disagree. The reasons we shot it down were:
    1) Because the risk to human life was non-zero
    2) To prevent sensitive technology from going into the wrong hands. (You can bet that there would have been a mad dash to salvage at ground zero by just about everybody once it went down)
    3) To further test our ABM technology.
    4) To show everybody once again that we kick ass.
    5) And most importantly: Because there were no downside to doing it. This wasn't a dangerous mission that put soldiers or civilian lives at risk. We launched a missile, and if it missed, no big deal, no harm done. But if it was a success, we can celebrate because of reasons #1-#4.

    There really isn't any valid argument for not trying this operation.
  • by Loke the Dog ( 1054294 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:54AM (#22502206)
    Yep, but the military felt they needed to remind china of that.
  • by Binestar ( 28861 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @10:55AM (#22502216) Homepage
    And you know this how exactly ?
    Physics. The satellite wasn't designed for re-entry (In fact, it's very likely it was designed for breakup during reentry for various security issues) and as such wouldn't have the heat shielding required to protect those parts of the propulsion system from the heat of reentry.
  • by lukas84 ( 912874 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @11:05AM (#22502354) Homepage
    My boss would say that you don't have tested it adequately if you don't know how it will behave in production.
  • by bloobloo ( 957543 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @11:10AM (#22502410) Homepage
    Why would there be anything else? Satellites are designed to stay in space. Any re-entry shielding would be extra weight and hence extra cost for launching, for no intentional purpose.
  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @11:15AM (#22502476)

    A tank with a leak in it during reentry will burn off the hydrazine in short order.
    That depends on the size of the leak, now doesn't it? :) I still contend that if a Mercury capsule can come down with nothing but an ablative shield and some insulation protecting oxygen tanks and human beings, it is very presumptive to assume that a fuel tank would not survive without even knowing the layout of the satellite or its orientation upon re-entry.
  • by Cheeko ( 165493 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @11:27AM (#22502690) Homepage Journal
    I think the whole discussion of missile tech and the tank idea are both kinda of silly. I think the story was one that the military used to justify shooting a missile, but not to test the missile or any other tech.

    Mostly likely they were just worried about sensitive technology that might survive reentry potentially falling into Chinese or other hands. While not a new sat, it wasn't really that old either. I'm guessing decent optics and other gear on there, including comm equipment. Why risk any chance of parts of that surviving and landing in even a damaged state someplace that a foreign power might be able to get a hold of it.

    Of course this idea was never even remotely touched on, which I'm guessing is exactly what the military wanted. They are probably more than happy to be getting accused of testing a missile, it means people aren't talking about the thing that really concerned them.
  • Re:priorities? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hillgiant ( 916436 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @11:39AM (#22502900)
    "I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." -Albert Einstein
  • by Alizarin Erythrosin ( 457981 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @11:40AM (#22502924)
    You know, debris clouds of explosions or collisions can, and do, radiate in 3 dimensions. Maybe going to the moon is a little far fetched, but I could imagine that debris generated moving into other orbital planes.
  • by e2d2 ( 115622 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @11:41AM (#22502936)
    Like I've been saying to everyone around me - the cold war is on it's way back. It's not just pissing matches with China, but Russia too (who isn't broke anymore and has a brand new set of toys).

    What's this mean for the average American? Well for one duck and cover. But two - WE'RE IN THE MONEY!! WE'RE IN THE MONEY!!

    Nothing spurs an economy like a good old fashioned FEAR FUCK.
  • by jotok ( 728554 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @11:55AM (#22503120)
    I would say your boss needs to understand the most basic maxim of IT:
    "In theory, practice and theory are the same; in practice, they are not."

    Anyone who has actually had to do installs knows that ABSOLUTELY NO AMOUNT OF LAB TESTING WILL PREPARE YOU COMPLETELY FOR THE REAL WORLD. See: Murphy's Law. See Also: Any angry IT guy: "Dammit, it's ALWAYS something!"
  • Re:in other news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @12:08PM (#22503316)

    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.
    Of course they would say that. What would you expect?
  • by e-scetic ( 1003976 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @12:18PM (#22503466)

    The US government/military (same thing, really) has used up all trust with me. I don't believe ANYTHING they say. I'm not drawing any conclusions whatsoever, just taking all official and unofficial propaganda in with a grain of salt. There are plenty of possibilities, everything is so far gone into wag the dog mode we'll probably never know the truth.

    Congratulations on your perceived success, go ahead and cheer, but after all that has gone before, especially recently, the cheerleaders simply look like jingoistic idiots to me.

  • by bickerdyke ( 670000 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @12:26PM (#22503590)

    Hydrazine is a solid below about 1 deg C. This was a dead satellite. No heat, no power supplies. In other words, you have an insulated pressure vessel (fairly well-built) containing 1,000 lb of hydrazine ice at roughly -273 deg C.
    Assuming that the satelite was hiding in the shadow of some larger vessel and not exposed to sunlight heating it up to a few hundred degrees.
  • by thrillseeker ( 518224 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @12:28PM (#22503622)
    Or maybe because the Chinese would stop their lending programs, stop the cash flow and take their assets back, completely tanking our governments military fund.

    I would envision the threat scenario of the Chinese threatening the US in any significant financial way would go like so ...
    1. China: We are cancelling all our loans and investments and want our money back now.
    2. US: No.
    3. China: Ummm ...
  • Re:in other news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Eudial ( 590661 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @12:30PM (#22503650)

    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.

    Hypothetically, if the US -would- launch an anti-sattelite missile, and say it was an anti-missile missile, how could we tell the difference?
  • by glueball ( 232492 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @01:18PM (#22504364)
    Adding to your thought:
    Simulations are doomed to succeed.
  • by Ynsats ( 922697 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @01:51PM (#22504876)
    Distance isn't the problem. The SM-3 is a multi-stage missile and was already above it's published service ceiling for this test.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SM-3 [wikipedia.org]

    The problem with hitting a satellite is velocity. Specifically closing velocity. With the kinetic warhead traveling at the speeds that it is capable of and the satellite orbiting around 17,000 mph, closing velocity was up around 22,000 mph. Altitude can always be achieved just by changing the booster series and fuels. Having a guided warhead being able to adapt to and intercept a target moving that fast is the real problem.

    I think the capability was soundly demonstrated and while some may think it was a mistake, the BMD system has roots in a previous system that dates back to 1995-96. This capability has been in the hands of the Navy for a while now just no reason to use it or give away what cards were being held in our hand. It was also being developed at that time when we signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which not only said we wouldn't develop any new ballistic missiles but we also wouldn't develop a defensive system against ballistic missiles. As far as I know, that treaty is still in place and this is a direct violation of that treaty. Just goes to show how much the Navy cares about foreign policy. Especially since it can park "90,000 tons of diplomacy" off of any shore and have it accompanied by a battle group with enough firepower to put any country that opposes the U.S. back into the stone age.
  • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Thursday February 21, 2008 @02:12PM (#22505254) Homepage Journal
    Probably ill informed, I don't watch the news very often. Say, did they ever find all of those WMDs I used to keep hearing about, (and which you seem to be offering as an excuse for the invasion)?

VMS must die!