Feeds

Bush orders US Navy to shoot down rogue spy sat

Anything to stop it hitting eBay

Security for virtualized datacentres

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.

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
What's that STINK? Rosetta probe shoves nose under comet's tail
Rotten eggs, horse dung and almonds – yuck
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Kip Thorne explains how he created the black hole for Interstellar
Movie special effects project spawns academic papers on gravitational lensing
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
Moment of truth for LOHAN's servos: Our US allies are poised for final test flight
Will Vulture 2 freeze at altitude? Edge Research Lab to find out
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
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.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.