Feeds

US declares 1400-mile Pacific sat-shoot exclusion zone

Airspace bar from surface to 'unlimited' altitude

High performance access to file storage

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. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
IBM Hursley Park: Where Big Blue buries the past, polishes family jewels
How the internet of things has deep roots in the English countryside
Video games make you NASTY AND VIOLENT
Especially if you are bad at them and keep losing
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Honeybee boffin STINGS OWN WEDDING TACKLE... for SCIENCE
Not the worst place to be stung, says one man
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.