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The Daily Telegraph - Home

US shoots down toxic satellite

Article from: Reuters

From correspondents in Washington

February 21, 2008 02:51pm

A MISSILE fired from a US Navy warship has hit a defunct spy satellite in space to try to prevent its toxic fuel tank from crashing to Earth, the Pentagon says.

The SM-3 missile was fired from the USS Lake Erie in the Pacific at about 10.26 EST (2.26pm AEDT) and hit the bus-sized satellite about 133 nautical miles (247km) above the ocean, the Pentagon said.

"A network of land, air, sea and space-based sensors confirms that the US military intercepted a nonfunctioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite which was in its final orbits before entering the earth's atmosphere," it said.

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

"Due to the relatively low altitude of the satellite at the time of the engagement, debris will begin to re-enter the earth's atmosphere immediately," it said.

"Nearly all of the debris will burn up on re-entry within 24-48 hours and the remaining debris should re-enter within 40 days."

A defence official told the Associated Press that an initial view of the missile strike indicated it probably hit the fuel tank.

The Pentagon said last week that President George W. Bush had decided the navy should try to shoot down the satellite because its tank of hazardous hydrazine could leak if it enters the atmosphere and reaches Earth.

Russia and China have expressed concern about the operation. The Russian Defence Ministry said it could be used as cover to test a new space weapon.

Washington has insisted the operation is purely to prevent people being harmed by the satellite's fuel load.

 

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