Feeds

Bush orders US Navy to shoot down rogue spy sat

Anything to stop it hitting eBay

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The US Navy will attempt to shoot down a malfunctioning American spy satellite before it falls to Earth, the Pentagon has confirmed. The plan has been approved by President George Bush, citing concern over toxic hydrazine fuel aboard the spacecraft. However, a top analyst has suggested the US is actually worried about secret technology winding up for sale on the web.

American officials confirming the shootdown plan last night said the Presidential decision was based entirely on the fact that the satellite still carries a full tank of manoeuvring fuel, having never been used. The spacecraft failed to come on line after being launched, and is now slowing down and descending due to friction from the upper atmosphere. At some point over the next few weeks, the gradual descent process will escalate quite suddenly and it will plunge to Earth.

"This is all about trying to reduce the danger to human beings... the likelihood of the satellite falling in a populated area is small, and the extent and duration of toxic hydrazine in the atmosphere would be limited,” said James F Jeffrey, deputy US national security adviser.

"Nevertheless, if the satellite did fall in a populated area, there is the possibility of death or injury to human beings."

Normally, such secret spy sats use the last of their fuel at the end of their useful lives to make a controlled re-entry into the ocean, safeguarding their technology from prying eyes and avoiding any risks to human life.

US Marine general James Cartwright, vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said three US Navy Aegis warships were being positioned ready to shoot at the satellite. He said the ships are carrying Standard SM-3 ballistic-missile-defence interceptor rockets with specially modified software. According to Cartwright, the window of opportunity to pick off the satellite would open in "three or four" days, and would remain open for "seven or eight" days after that.

"We'll take one shot and assess," he added. "This is the first time we've used a tactical missile to engage a spacecraft."

The general dismissed the idea that the satellite's secret systems were a concern.

"Our assessment is that [the satellite] wouldn't be of high intel value... the hydrazine is the only reason we're taking extraordinary measures," he stated.

The US officials also said there was no comparison with last year's anti-satellite test by the People's Republic of China, in which the Chinese shot at a satellite of theirs just to see if they could hit it. Mr Jeffrey said the debris from a successful US shootdown just above the atmosphere would burn up within a short period; whereas the Chinese test had produced a debris shower which would be a danger to space navigation for centuries.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
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.
Managing SSL certificates with ease
The lack of operational efficiencies and compliance pitfalls associated with poor SSL certificate management, and how the right SSL certificate management tool can help.