Feeds

Spy satellite to slam Earthside

Could contain hazardous materials, just like The Andromeda Strain

Build a business case: developing custom apps

A large US spy satellite has lost power and could hit the Earth in late February or March, government officials have said. The satellite, which is now out of control, could contain hazardous materials, and it's unknown where on our planet it might come down.

Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council said, "Appropriate government agencies are monitoring the situation...Numerous satellites over the years have come out of orbit and fallen harmlessly. We are looking at potential options to mitigate any possible damage this satellite may cause."

He would not however, comment on whether it's possible for the satellite to be shot down by a missile.

"The Andromeda Strain " image courtesy of Universal Pictures

Scenes like this...could soon become commonplace

Such an uncontrolled re-entry could risk exposure of US secrets, director of the defense research group Global Security John Pike, told Associated Press. Spy satellites are typically disposed of through a controlled re-entry into the ocean so that no one else can access the spacecraft.

Pike also said it's not likely the threat from the satellite could be eliminated by shooting it down with a missile, because that would create debris that would then re-enter the atmosphere and burn up or hit the ground.

It's estimated that the spacecraft weighs about 20,000lb - roughly the size of a small bus - and might contain beryllium: a light metal with a high melting point that's used in the defense and aerospace industries.

This isn't the first uncontrolled re-entry for a NASA spacecraft: Skylab, the 78-ton abandoned space station, fell from orbit in 1979. Its debris dropped harmlessly into the Indian Ocean and across a remote section of Western Australia.

In 2002, officials believe debris from a 7,000lb science satellite smacked into the Earth's atmosphere and rained down over the Persian Gulf, a few thousand miles from where they first predicted it would plummet. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.