U.S. Set Date to Shoot Down Satellite

February 19, 2008 07:00 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The Pentagon warns ships to avoid an area in the Pacific during the early hours of Thursday, Feb. 21, when the Navy is set to destroy the U.S. spy satellite.

30-Second Summary

CNN reports that the satellite’s destruction might be postponed. "We have to make the notification, but it's possible the conditions won't be ideal, or that everything won't be ready,” an unnamed Pentagon official told the news network.
U.S. officials have stated that the satellite has to be shot down to prevent it spreading its toxic hydrazine fuel on re-entry.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters on Feb. 16, "Our role is to reassure nations around the world as to the nature of what we are tying to do. It's an attempt to try to protect populations on the ground."

However, some commentators have expressed doubts about the plan. A writer for Wired says that on Jan. 29, Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart "downplayed" the risk of hydrazine fuel in an interview with the Associated Press.

America has abstained from anti-satellite tests for over 20 years. This latest development follows China’s shooting down one of its satellites last year in a missile test, an action that drew U.S. and Russian condemnation.

Putting the Pentagon’s coming action into that context, “The ramifications of the operation are diplomatic as well as military and scientific,” writes the International Herald Tribune.

According to Gary Payton, a senior Pentagon official, the Chinese have been trying to intimidate the United States. He concluded that “space is no longer a sanctuary; it is a contested domain.”

The Economist says that should the two countries enter a protracted struggle for dominance in space it could deteriorate into a costly arms race, from which the United States has the most to lose.

Headline Link: ‘U.S. Issues Notice on Downing of Satellite’

Background: China shoots down satellite; alternative risk assessment

Reaction: The U.S. reaction to the Chinese test

Analysis: An arms race in space?

Reference: Hydrazine

Related Topics: Skepticm and the satellite test


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