2008-02-24 Satellite shootdownUS Navy shoots down US recce satellite
USA zerstören eigenen Satelliten vor dem Absturz<br /> The missile fired from a U.S. Navy ship in the Pacific Ocean that hit a malfunctioning U.S. reconnaissance satellite on 20 February likely accomplished its goal of destroying the satellite's toxic fuel tank, a senior U.S. military officer said.
Preliminary reports indicate the SM-3 missile struck its primary target, which was a tank full of toxic hydrazine rocket fuel carried aboard the 5,000-pound satellite, Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a Pentagon news conference. "The intercept occurred.
We're very confident that we hit the satellite," Cartwright said. "We also have a high degree of confidence that we got the tank." Video shown to reporters depicts the satellite exploding at the point of contact with the missile. Cartwright said the visible fireball and the vapor cloud or plume around it suggest that the fuel tank was hit and the hydrazine had burned up. "The high-definition imagery that we have indicates that we hit the spacecraft right in the area of the tank," Cartwright said.
The U.S. State Department has provided updates on the situation to its embassies around the world, Cartwright noted. There are no reports of debris reaching the Earth, he said, adding that consequence-management crews are on standby to respond to such a circumstance, if required. The SM-3 missile was launched by the USS Lake Erie, positioned northwest of Hawaii, at 10:26 p.m. EST on 20 February, Cartwright said. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who is on an overseas trip, gave the go-ahead to fire, Cartwright said. The missile intercepted the satellite about 153 miles above the Earth, just before it began to enter the atmosphere, Cartwright said. Joint Space Operations Center technicians at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif, confirmed the satalitte's breakup about 24 minutes later.
The National Reconnaissance Office-managed satellite malfunctioned soon after it was launched in 2006, making it unresponsive to ground control. The satellite, orbiting Earth every 90 minutes or so, was expected to fall to Earth in February or March with its tank of hydrazine intact, possibly endangering human populations.