Bad Astronomy

BREAKING: SpySat successfully hit by missile

UPDATE: A DoD press release states that “Nearly all of the debris will burn up on reentry within 24-48 hours and the remaining debris should re-enter within 40 days.” They also say that confirmation that the fuel tank carrying the hydrazine was disrupted will come within 24 hours. Stay Tuned.

UPDATE II: CNN video of a press conference by the Pentagon has some footage of the missile very clearly hitting the satellite. Very cool… and at the very end of the few seconds of the footage, I’d swear a bow wave forms as the expanding cloud slams into the very thin atmosphere at that height. Also, they appear to have seen indications of hydrazine in a spectrum of the explosion they took, which means it looks like they hit the tank.

CNN is reporting that the Navy successfully blew up the spy satellite USA 193 that was in danger of an uncontrolled re-entry:

At approximately 10:26 p.m. EST today, a U.S. Navy AEGIS warship, the USS Lake Erie, fired a single modified tactical Standard Missile-3, hitting the satellite approximately 247 kilometers (133 nautical miles) over the Pacific Ocean as it traveled in space at more than 17,000 mph.

Well then. This was reported to have been postponed, but I guess the seas calmed down enough for them to take the shot.

Interestingly, the CNN story says the missile had no warhead. A simple impact is enough to do the deed; at relative velocities of several miles per second a small pebble can do serious damage.

I’ll note that in their video, CNN shows Hubble when talking about the satellite. Geez.

I don’t know what more there will be to this story until the pieces come down, which may take a few more weeks. As usual, when I learn more, I’ll post!