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View Full Version : Space shuttle descends: Satellite turkey-shoot to commence


tlr online
20-02-08, 17:54
The American military has issued further warning notices to aircraft and shipping in the Pacific, offering further opportunities for US warships to destroy a malfunctioning secret spy satellite before it descends to Earth. Meanwhile, NASA has cleared the space shuttle Atlantis to land as scheduled in Florida this afternoon, allowing the first satellite shot to be attempted above the Pacific in the early hours of tomorrow morning (UK time).

Atlantis, having departed from the International Space Station on Monday, was until lately orbiting higher than the crippled spy satellite, like the ISS. Neither would have been at significant risk should the warships fire, according to the US government.

However, the planned attempt to break up the satellite using ballistic-missile defence interceptors will create a spreading cloud of debris, mostly still travelling at enormous speed above the atmosphere. US officials believe the satellite wreckage will mostly descend and burn up within hours of a hit, but nonetheless have decided to get the shuttle down before firing.

Atlantis needed to land by Friday, as its power supplies would have run out then. If the anti-satellite firing took place first, the shuttle could have been at risk from debris as it descended. At orbital velocities of several miles per second, even a very small fragment of satellite could wreck the shuttle totally; or at least cause enough damage for the heat and stresses of re-entry to be fatal, as in the Columbia disaster. Once the space shuttle commences re-entry, it has no option to abort and return to orbit.

Now, however, Atlantis is carrying out its de-orbit burn on schedule and will be safe on the ground at Cape Canaveral shortly after two in the afternoon UK time. That will leave the skies clear for the flotilla of US warships now at sea west of Hawaii to launch a specially-modified Standard SM-3 ballistic-missile interceptor into the path of the crippled spy sat as it hurtles overhead at approximately 0330 tomorrow morning UK time.

According to the US defence authorities, President Bush has delegated firing authority to defence secretary Robert Gates. Gates is due to commence a nine-day overseas trip tomorrow, but will apparently give firing orders "from the road, if necessary".

An initial warning to airmen blocked off a 1400-mile stretch of the Pacific between the hours of 0230 and 0500 tomorrow morning UK time. The spy satellite will be over the southwest edge of the warning zone at approximately 0328, and departing towards Canada less than three minutes later - perhaps in the form of a cloud of fragments, if an "exo-atmospheric kill vehicle" lofted by a triple-stage Standard rocket has managed to get precisely in the satellite's way.

Since the initial NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) was issued, another has been put out for the same area 24 hours later, indicating a time window for a subsequent shot if the first should miss. A separate warning to shipping specifies that hazardous operations may take place in that area during the same two-and-a-half-hour time slot for the next five days. The air warning will be updated daily, apparently.

The danger area doesn't change, despite the fact that the satellite's track above it will shift gradually westward as the days pass. (Sky-watcher Ted Molczan's pdf plot shows this plainly.) This is because the only hazard in the firing area itself is from falling boosters and so forth from the Standard interceptors - and perhaps from highpowered radars being used to track the satellite and assess the shoot. There is a standing NOTAM in the area warning of X-band emissions from the radar at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, which would seem a logical one to use as it will have the satellite in sight as it passes above the firing area.

It has also been reported that the often-troubled radar-golfball-on-an-oilrig sea-based X-band radar (SBX) might be employed. Text purporting to be a NOTAM has been posted on skywatcher sites and (of course) Wikipedia. However, the NOTAM at least appears to be a fake, as it cannot be found on US government channels.

Actual satellite debris is unlikely to come down in the Pacific firing area - rather it will carry on along the spacecraft's original track, spreading and deviating in complex ways. Ten minutes after a hit, the centre of the wreckage cloud will be over Canada. Ten more minutes after that and the cloud will be racing southward above the Atlantic. Owing to the timing of the shot window, the frag cloud will then stay mainly over oceans for much of its predicted two-orbit lifespan - though it will graze western and southern Africa, and pass above Australia twice.

The Bush administration is still sticking firmly to its story that the shoot is aimed at rupturing the satellite's 40-inch hydrazine tank so as to prevent a toxic gas cloud on impact. China and Russia continue to evince boilerplate "concern" over the mission and possible militarisation of space.

Here at the Reg, we're obviously hoping for repeated, spectacular misses (the US Navy apparently only has three modded SM-3s on hand) followed by eventual sale of the secret sky-spy payload on eBay and further sensational revelations.

A Pentagon news conference is expected shortly after the initial firing, at around 0400-0430 tomorrow morning UK time.

www.theregister.co.uk

Mr.Burns
20-02-08, 17:59
Here at the Reg, we're obviously hoping for repeated, spectacular misses (the US Navy apparently only has three modded SM-3s on hand) followed by eventual sale of the secret sky-spy payload on eBay and further sensational revelations.



*sighs* Further biased comments. :rolleyes:

tlr online
20-02-08, 18:01
*sighs* Further biased comments. :rolleyes:

That's not directed towards you Justin.



Oh come on Mr. Burns. You can hardly blame them for having a dig after Bush's condemnation of China's earlier missile-satellite-destroying (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/01/23/satellite_test_confirmed/) exercise.

I'm actually routing for a miss. :D

Mr.Burns
20-02-08, 18:06
Oh come on Mr. Burns. You can hardly blame them for having a dig after Bush's condemnation of China's earlier missile-satellite-destroying (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/01/23/satellite_test_confirmed/) exercise.

I'm actually routing for a miss. :D
Oh I won't argue that point. I just sense a deeper displeasure towards the US from this news source that, based on the general tone as of late amongst the world, I feel clouds the need for impartiality. I might come off a bit idealistic here but I prefer news sources that try to remain impartial, or as much as possible.


A miss? I'd rather not. If it is true that this satellite does indeed carry toxic material, I would hope that it is eliminated before it has the potential to contaminate an local environment or hits a major populated area. A risk like that? No, that's not a good thing to hope for. Given what's needed to keep satellites in orbit (stabilizing thrusters), jet fuel is not something I'd like to see dispersed over a populated area.

Mad Tony
20-02-08, 18:34
OMGZ!!!11!!1 I hope those evil americans miss!!!111!!1 Down with the USA! :mad:

Heh, sarcasm :p
I'm with Mark on this one.

SamReeves
20-02-08, 18:55
One thing I don't appreciate in this thread is making a mockery of NORAD and the Navy. These guys and gals work hard every day to make sure we're safe. I doubt they will miss.

Cochrane
20-02-08, 19:42
Oh I won't argue that point. I just sense a deeper displeasure towards the US from this news source that, based on the general tone as of late amongst the world, I feel clouds the need for impartiality. I might come off a bit idealistic here but I prefer news sources that try to remain impartial, or as much as possible.


A miss? I'd rather not. If it is true that this satellite does indeed carry toxic material, I would hope that it is eliminated before it has the potential to contaminate an local environment or hits a major populated area. A risk like that? No, that's not a good thing to hope for. Given what's needed to keep satellites in orbit (stabilizing thrusters), jet fuel is not something I'd like to see dispersed over a populated area.


Don't take "El Reg" too seriously (and consequently, the ones who quote it). It has a, let's call it unique, writing style and a sometimes rather careless approach to world events. This is not a bug, it's a feature, as it makes it one of the funnier sites to read about tech news. Anyway, they never felt a need for impartiality, so they sure as hell won't start now.

As for a miss: You have to admit that, if you ignore the potential of innocent people dying for a second, it would make for a lot of interesting drama. I'm sure there are already hollywood producers out there trying to find out where they can buy the rights to this whole thing.

SamReeves: I don't want to say anything against the hard-working people trying to shoot the satellite down. If they manage to do so on first attempt, then I will certainly admire them for their good work. But they are doing this for the first time under live conditions, with not very much preparation, so the chance of a miss is certainly present.

Draco
20-02-08, 20:32
The Navy won't miss.

Seb_01225
20-02-08, 20:41
The Navy won't miss.

damn i want information from the satelite to be found by a random person and then everyone would know

Draco
20-02-08, 20:47
Just what kind of information do you think is on this thing?

Cochrane
20-02-08, 21:09
Just what kind of information do you think is on this thing?

Does it matter? "Billion dollar satellites not capable of retrieving interesting information" would probably make for an even better headline than "CIA has mastered new precision welding technology for satellites but keeps it secret" or whatever else you'd find there.

I'll be honest here: I do not consider this satellite a significant danger to me or others, especially as I know there's a very good chance the US will eventually get it down. Consequently, all I care for when talking about this issue is, in the end, entertainment value. So don't take my views on the issue too seriously, because I don't either.

vespertea
20-02-08, 21:34
Just what kind of information do you think is on this thing?

The locations of Waldo and Carmen Sandiego. I think that's pretty crucial information worth retrieving.

nick-xx
20-02-08, 22:26
i would love to see a video of these ships firing these missiles :rolleyes:. Maybe in the future a movie would be great.

Mad Tony
20-02-08, 22:28
i would love to see a video of these ships firing these missiles :rolleyes:.Why? :confused:

nick-xx
20-02-08, 22:31
Why? :confused:

i mean in live. i never heard how loud that thing can go, although im against wars, i always was fascinated about military things and technologies.

SamReeves
20-02-08, 22:32
Oh they'll be taking video of this. ;)

Sir Croft
20-02-08, 23:16
i mean in live. i never heard how loud that thing can go, although im against wars, i always was fascinated about military things and technologies.

lol
Check it on youtube three hours later. :p

tlr online
20-02-08, 23:39
Oh they'll be taking video of this. ;)

I don't doubt it for a second Sam.

rowanlim
21-02-08, 03:46
I just hope no one gets hurt. Plus they should study how to reduce chances of spacecraft failure in the future ;)

SamReeves
21-02-08, 05:23
The Navy got its satellite. Outstanding job by the U.S.S. Lake Erie! :tmb:

http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=35114

http://i28.************/15dan88.jpg
Launch aboard a CG.

http://i30.************/11l0vev.jpg
Missile bay aboard the Lake Erie.

http://i26.************/i71izm.jpg
Security drills earlier this week while prepping for this evening's launch. They weren't taking any chances.

For those interested, the Lake Erie's own website:

http://www.lake-erie.navy.mil/

vespertea
21-02-08, 05:48
-insert Team America theme song here-

Mad Tony
21-02-08, 08:46
Awesome news, Sam. :tmb: And yes, the guys who shot that thing down definitely deserve some recognition. :)

Oh, and to those who the US Navy to miss...
http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g243/mnts747/268_nelson1.gif

Cochrane
21-02-08, 09:51
Good work, I wouldn't have thought they'd manage to on the first try.