February 20, 2008

Spy satellite shootdown depends on weather

Pentagon says high seas may delay mission until at least Thursday

For deeper information simply press on the links below. So many lies about this - so little time to figure what is what.

This article may appear long, but it's leaving out the crucial information about hydrezine and berrilium threats to civilian populations.

Nor does it mention the plans to declare martial law if "things go wrong". They went wrong the minute they planned this satellite, the reasons they built the satellite are wrong, and this could conceivably go much more wrong, wrong, wrong.

MSNBC News Services

updated 9:24 a.m. CT, Wed., Feb. 20, 2008

WASHINGTON - High seas in the north Pacific may force the Navy to wait another day before launching a heat-seeking missile on a mission to shoot down a wayward U.S. spy satellite, the Defense Department said Wednesday.

Weather conditions are one of many factors that U.S. military officers are taking into account as they decide whether to proceed with the mission Wednesday or to put it off, according to a senior military officer who briefed reporters at the Pentagon on condition that he not be identified.
The officer said the assumption had been that the mission would go forward Wednesday night, unless conditions are determined to be unfavorable. Earlier in the day, bad weather in the north Pacific was causing high seas, which may be a problem for the USS Lake Erie, a cruiser armed with two SM-3 missiles, and the USS Decatur, which has one missile. According to NBC News sources, the Lake Erie will likely fire first, with the Decatur "shadowing" the other cruiser in case of trouble with the launch.

"We don't anticipate the weather being good enough today," the officer said, adding that conditions could improve enough in the hours ahead to permit it to go forward. A final decision would be made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The Pentagon had been waiting until the space shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth before launching the missile.

"We're now into the window," the senior military officer said minutes after the shuttle landed.
He said the mission could go forward on any day until Feb. 29, when the satellite is projected to have re-entered the Earth's atmosphere, making it infeasible to attempt to hit it with the Navy missile.

"We're watching weather today," he said. The ground rules of the news conference were that the official could not be quoted by name.

The military will be making decisions each day on whether to proceed with an attempt or not — and criteria could change several times each day, he said.

The attempted shootdown was approved by President Bush out of concern that toxic fuel on board the satellite could crash to earth, the Defense Department has said.

Officials will know nearly immediately whether the missile has hit the satellite, but it will take a day or two to know whether the fuel tank has been destroyed, officials said. About an hour after the attempt, the Pentagon will release a written statement, followed by a briefing on the situation the following morning.

The attempted shootdown was approved by President Bush out of concern that toxic fuel on board the satellite could crash to Earth.

An attempt to blast a crippled U.S. spy satellite out of the sky using a Navy heat-seeking missile — possibly on Wednesday night — would be the first real-world use of this piece of the Pentagon's missile defense network. But that is not the mission for which it was intended.

The three-stage Navy missile, designated the SM-3, has chalked up a high rate of success in a series of tests since 2002 — in each case targeting a short- or medium-range ballistic missile, never a satellite. A hurry-up program to adapt the missile for this anti-satellite mission was completed in a matter of weeks; Navy officials say the changes will be reversed once this satellite is down.

The government issued notices to aviators and mariners to remain clear of a section of the Pacific beginning at 10:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, indicating the first window of opportunity to launch an SM-3 missile from a Navy cruiser, the USS Lake Erie, in an effort to hit the wayward satellite.

Having lost power shortly after it reached orbit in late 2006, the satellite is well below the altitude of a normal satellite. The Pentagon wants to hit it with an SM-3 missile just before it re-enters Earth's atmosphere, in that way minimizing the amount of debris that would remain in space.

Adding to the difficulty of the mission, the missile will have to do better than just hit the bus-sized satellite, a Navy official said Tuesday. It needs to strike the relatively small fuel tank aboard the spacecraft in order to accomplish the main goal, which is to eliminate the toxic fuel that could injure or even kill people if it reached Earth. The Navy official described technical aspects of the missile's capabilities on condition that he not be identified.

Also complicating the effort will be the fact that the satellite has no heat-generating propulsion system on board. That makes it more difficult for the Navy missile's heat-seeking system to work, although the official said software changes had been made to compensate for the lack of heat.

The Pentagon press secretary, Geoff Morrell, said Defense Secretary Robert Gates was briefed on the shootdown plan Tuesday by the two officers who will advise him on exactly when to launch the missile — Gen. Kevin Chilton, the head of Strategic Command, and Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who held Chilton's post until last summer.

"We all have an agreed-upon series of steps that need to be taken for this launch to be given the go-ahead," Morrell said, adding that no final decision has been made on when to make the attempt.

"The secretary is the one who will decide if and when to pull the trigger," the spokesman said, adding that Gates was departing Wednesday morning on an around-the-world trip that will include a stop in Honolulu, Hawaii, where a military command center will be monitoring the satellite operation.

Left alone, the satellite would be expected to hit Earth during the first week of March. About half of the 5,000-pound spacecraft would be expected to survive its blazing descent through the atmosphere and would scatter debris over several hundred miles.

Known by its military designation US 193, the satellite was launched in December 2006. It lost power and its central computer failed almost immediately afterward, leaving it uncontrollable. It carried a sophisticated and secret imaging sensor.

Morrell said the cost of adapting the Navy anti-missile system for the shootdown mission was $30 million to $40 million.

China and Russia have expressed concern at the planned shootdown, saying it could harm security in outer space. At the State Department on Tuesday, spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that the U.S. action is meant to protect people from the hazardous fuel and is not a weapons test.

China was criticized last year when it used a missile to destroy a defunct weather satellite.

The Navy ship-based system, which includes a command-and-control and radar system known as Aegis, as well as the SM-3 missiles, is just one segment of a larger, far-flung missile defense system that has been in development by the American military for more than three decades.

Managed by the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, the program includes interceptor missiles sitting in underground silos at Fort Greely, Alaska, and at Vanderberg Air Force Base, Calif., as well as radars around the world that are used to track an enemy missile and help the interceptor hit it.

As currently configured the missile defense system is designed mainly to counter a threat from North Korea. The Bush administration, fearing an emerging missile threat from Iran, is in talks with Poland and the Czech Republic to place interceptor missiles in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic. Russia has objected strenuously, saying such bases would be a threat to Russia.

© 2008 MSNBC Interactive

1 comment:

Uncle Fester Lurks said...

Isn't it so touching to see that the DOD cares so much for the rest of us humans. They are worried about toxins from the satellite and yet they use depleted uranium and white phosperus in Iraq.

This is just a stunt to hype up some new missile defense system that will end up costing taxpayers a ga-zillion of dollars.

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