In this image provided by the US Navy a single modified tactical Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) launches from the U.S. Navy AEGIS cruiser USS Lake Erie Wednesday Feb. 20, 2008, successfully impacting a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite approximately 247 kilometers (133 nautical miles) over the Pacific Ocean, as it traveled in space at more than 17,000 mph. President George W. Bush decided to bring down the satellite because of the likelihood that the satellite could release hydrazine fuel upon impact, possibly in populated areas. (AP Photo/US Navy)
Destroying the satellite's onboard tank of about 1,000 pounds of hydrazine fuel was the primary goal, and a senior defense official close to the mission said Thursday that it appears the tank was destroyed, and the strike with a specially designed missile was a complete success.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered the shootdown, which came late Wednesday as he began an eight-day, around-the-world trip on which he likely will face questions about the mission.
The elaborate intercept may trigger worries from some international leaders, who could see it as a thinly disguised attempt to test an anti-satellite weapon - one that could take out other nation's orbiting communications and spy spacecraft.
Within hours of the reported success, China said it was on the alert for possible harmful fallout from the shootdown and urged Washington to promptly release data on the action.
"China is continuously following closely the possible harm caused by the U.S. action to outer space security and relevant countries," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at news conference in Beijing. "China requests the U.S. to fulfill its international obligations in real earnest and provide to the international community necessary information and relevant data in a timely and prompt way so that relevant countries can take precautions."
While Pentagon officials stressed that the satellite strike was a one-time incident, it certainly will spin off massive amounts of data and research that can be studied by the military as it works to improve its missile defense technologies.
Officials had expressed cautious optimism that the missile would hit the bus-sized satellite, but they were less certain of hitting the smaller, more worrisome fuel tank.
In a statement released after the satellite was shot, the Pentagon said, "Confirmation that the fuel tank has been fragmented should be available within 24 hours." But a short time later, several defense officials close to the situation said it appeared the fuel tank was hit. One said observers saw what appeared to be an explosion. Those officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the results had not been formally documented at the time they spoke.
Because the satellite was orbiting at a relatively low altitude at the time it was hit by the missile, debris will begin to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere immediately, the Pentagon statement 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," it said.
A bit of science reality to counter the McNobrain blather currently occupying all of the blogosphere news this AM.
The Lunar Eclipse also was here and there around cloud cover while KO was prattling for a complete hour over and over, ad-nauseum, about certain indiscretions of a certain Senator and a certain K-Street marm. Looks to me like someone just got their butt shoved in front of the campaign bus. With the numerous favors granted to lobbyists by Mc it is no wonder they want to drop him like a hot potato.
War hero one minute, tabloid star the next, what a country!