Feeds

US declares 1400-mile Pacific sat-shoot exclusion zone

Airspace bar from surface to 'unlimited' altitude

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

The US military has issued a warning notice barring flights above a large area of the northern Pacific for two and a half hours early on Thursday morning. The stricken spy satellite marked for destruction by US warships will pass over the taped-off area just at this time, indicating that the first shot will take place then.

The NOTAM (NOTice To AirMen) warning reads:

02/062 (A0038/08) - AIRSPACE CARF NR. 90 ON EVELYN STATIONARY RESERVATION WITHIN AN AREA BNDD BY 3145N 17012W 2824N 16642W 2352N 16317W 1909N 16129W 1241N 16129W 1239N 16532W 1842N 17057W 2031N 17230W 2703N 17206W SFC-UNL. 21 FEB 02:30 2008 UNTIL 21 FEB 05:00 2008. CREATED: 18 FEB 12:51 2008

A "CARF" (Central Altitude Reservation Function) designation indicates a NOTAM intended to keep commercial and private flights clear of military operations, and SFC-UNL means the height band of this warning zone reaches from the surface to "unlimited" altitude - in other words all the way into space. The UTC time referred to is the same as UK time, so the zone exists from 0230 to 0500 on Thursday morning for British readers.

The latitudes and longitudes can be plotted with the crippled spy sat's ground track overlaid, which has been done by satellite watcher Ted Molczan in handy pdf form here. Those running Google Earth can get a better look using this kmz file, compiled by Molczan's fellow sky-watcher Alan Clegg from the pdf.

As will be evident, the barred area is a cool 1,400 miles long and nearly 700 miles wide at the surface, giving the US Navy plenty of elbow room to fire their interceptor missiles up into the descending spacecraft's path.

Reports have it that three US Aegis air-defence warships, the cruiser Lake Erie and the destroyers Decatur and Russell, will be waiting for the satellite west of Hawaii. Each ship carries a specially modified Standard SM-3 interceptor, originally intended for defence against lower-flying ballistic missile warheads. The three interceptors are on separate ships in case of a technical issue with the Aegis radar and fire-control system.

As it passes over the firing area, the satellite will be approximately 3,000 miles and ten minutes out from the western coast of Canada, the next land it will pass over. The satellite has much more mass than the soaring "exo-atmospheric kill vehicle" it will smack into, so this gives some idea of the onward track the wreckage might follow in the event of a hit.

The Pentagon believes most of the resulting debris from a successful shot will burn up soon afterwards, and almost all should be gone within "two orbits". Boosters and other gubbins from the interceptors will presumably fall within the ocean NOTAM area.

The firing area seems to have been chosen so as to minimise the chances of debris falling anywhere other than in the ocean or North America, which could lend credence to the idea that the intercept is primarily aimed at safeguarding the satellite's technology. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.