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US shoots down rogue satellite
21/02/2008 07:14  - (SA)  

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  • Honolulu - The US Defence Department said late on Wednesday it had successfully used a ship-board missile to shoot down an out-of-control spy satellite before it plummeted to Earth.

    "At approximately 22:26 today (03:26 GMT Thursday), a US Navy Aegis warship, the USS Lake Erie, fired a single modified tactical standard missile 3, hitting the satellite approximately 247km over the Pacific Ocean as it travelled in space more than 44 000km per hour," the Defence Department said in a statement.

    The Pentagon did not immediately confirm whether the SM-3 missile, which carried a non-explosive warhead, successfully hit the satellite's fuel tank, which held the toxic propellant hydrazine.

    Because of fears the hydrazine could pose a threat to humans, the objective was to make a direct hit on the fuel tank of the school-bus-sized satellite.

    "Confirmation that the fuel tank has been fragmented should be available within 24 hours," the statement said.

    Debris from the destroyed satellite, which failed shortly after being launched into orbit, will re-enter the atmosphere immediately but nearly all of it was expected to burn up, according to officials.

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