US to attempt satellite shoot-down Thursday: report

February 19th, 2008 - 11:52 am ICT by admin  

DPA
Washington, Feb 19 (DPA) The US Navy has set Thursday for its first attempt to shoot down a defective satellite, CNN broadcaster reported, citing two unnamed officials. The shoot-down, which has drawn protests from China, would come a day after the US shuttle Atlantis is expected to land back on Earth - a key consideration in the plans.

Without an interception, the rogue satellite’s decaying orbit could bring it back to Earth March 6 with no way to predict where it may land.

The satellite has about 450 kg of hydrazine fuel, which could be lethal if inhaled in high concentrations that could spread over two football fields upon impact.

The officials told CNN Monday that the Navy wanted to leave as much time as possible for a second attempt in case the precision manoeuvre fails on the first try.

US President George W. Bush approved the shoot-down and US diplomats have carried out a worldwide effort to inform partner nations in accord with international treaties governing space.

The Pentagon plans to bring down the defective spy satellite using a tactical standard missile-3 fired from a shipboard Aegis system deployed somewhere in the northern Pacific. The event would be an all-time first, using the experience of anti-missile tests.

The precise targeting will require the missile to hit “just prior” to the last moment before the satellite enters Earth’s atmosphere, so that some of the mass of the satellite will be burned up on re-entry and the rest fall into a safe ocean area.

China Monday expressed concern over the plans. China was criticised last year when it launched an anti-satellite missile to destroy an ageing weather satellite. But US officials say this situation is different.

They say that China’s missile left debris that has remained in orbit over a wide range of Earth’s surface and has presented a danger to other orbiting craft. The US plan to bring down this satellite would generate debris that will fall out of orbit within weeks, because of its relatively low altitude, they said.

The Pentagon lost communication with the satellite shortly after it was launched in December 2006, putting it out of reach of ground controllers to fire engines that could have brought it down safely after burning off much of the fuel.
DPA

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