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Tuesday, 26 February 2008

DefenseLink News Release: DoD Succeeds In Intercepting Non-Functioning Satellite

DefenseLink News Release: DoD Succeeds In Intercepting Non-Functioning Satellite

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release
On the Web:
Media contact: +1 (703) 697-5131/697-5132
Public contact:
or +1 (703) 428-0711 +1

February 20, 2008

DoD Succeeds In Intercepting Non-Functioning Satellite

            A network of land-, air-, sea- and spaced-based sensors confirms that the U.S. military intercepted a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite which was in its final orbits before entering the earth's atmosphere.  
            At approximately 10:26 p.m. EST today, a U.S. Navy AEGIS warship,  the USS Lake Erie (CG-70), fired a single modified tactical Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) hitting the satellite approximately 247 kilometers (133 nautical miles) over the Pacific Ocean as it traveled in space at more than 17,000 mph. USS Decatur (DDG-73) and USS Russell (DDG-59) were also part of the task force.
            The objective was to rupture the fuel tank to dissipate the approximately 1,000 pounds (453 kg) of hydrazine, a hazardous fuel which could pose a danger to people on earth, before it entered into earth's atmosphere.   Confirmation that the fuel tank has been fragmented should be available within 24 hours.  
            Due to the relatively low altitude of the satellite at the time of the engagement, debris will begin to re-enter the earth's atmosphere immediately. Nearly all of the debris will burn up on reentry within 24-48 hours and the remaining debris should re-enter within 40 days.  
            DoD will conduct a press briefing at 7 a.m. EST to provide further information related to the operation. The briefing can be viewed live on through the Pentagon Channel.      

DefenseLink News Article: Pentagon Opens Window of Time to Shoot Down Satellite

DefenseLink News Article: Pentagon Opens Window of Time to Shoot Down Satellite

American Forces Press Service

Pentagon Opens Window of Time to Shoot Down Satellite

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2008 – The Pentagon has opened the window of time in which it will shoot down a malfunctioning U.S. reconnaissance satellite, a senior U.S. military officer said here today.

Today's return of the space shuttle Atlantis to Earth prompted the start of the optimal time period for shooting down the satellite, which extends until about the end of the month, the senior officer told Pentagon reporters.

Only "tens of seconds" will be available each day for a favorable launch of a ship-based SM-3 interceptor missile, the senior officer said. "The window is small, … but we're looking for the best orientation of the satellite" before launching the missile, the officer explained.

The 5,000-pound satellite malfunctioned soon after it was launched in 2006, making it unresponsive to ground control. It is carrying a tank full of hydrazine, a toxic rocket fuel. The satellite, orbiting every 90 minutes or so, was expected to fall to Earth in February or March with its tank of hydrazine intact, possibly endangering human populations.

President Bush directed the Defense Department to engage the satellite just before it enters the atmosphere at about 150 miles above the Earth. The goal is for the missile to hit and rupture the tank of rocket fuel, causing the hydrazine to burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere, along with debris from the stricken satellite.

About 50 percent of debris produced by the missile strike is expected to burn up during the stricken satellite's first two orbits after being hit, the senior military officer said, with the rest burning up shortly after.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is to give the order to launch, based upon commanders' recommendations, the senior officer said. Gates will be advised as to the optimal time to launch by the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, based at Offutt Air Force Base, in Omaha, Neb.

All space sensor and missile-tracking activity related to the missile launch is being coordinated by the Joint Space Operations Center, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Sensors, such as large radars and telescopes, are being coordinated by the Joint Integrated Missile Defense Team in Colorado Springs, Colo., under the U.S. Army's Space and Missile Defense Command.

Three U.S. Navy ships -- the cruiser USS Lake Erie and the destroyers USS Decatur and USS Russell -- are posted in the Pacific Ocean waiting for an optimal time to launch, the senior officer said. The Erie is slated to shoot at the satellite, and it is fitted with two SM-3 missiles. The Decatur has one, and the Russell has none. The missiles were modified to carry additional sensor equipment for the mission, the senior officer said.

The launch will be conducted during daytime over the Pacific, the senior officer explained, so that all sensors involved can better track the results of the missile launch. Necessary criteria for launch include satisfactory alignment of all pre-launch sensor-supplied data, as well as favorable weather conditions, he said.

Currently, the wave height about the ships is unfavorable to launch, the officer said. However, this and other conditions are subject to change, he added.

Related Sites:
U.S. Strategic Command

Related Articles:
Navy to Shoot Down Malfunctioning Satellite
Window to Open for Satellite Shoot-Down, Gates to Issue Order
Joint Space Operations Center Opens at Vandenberg

Wednesday, 20 February 2008



Total Lunar Eclipse--Full Coverage

Space Weather News for Feb. 19, 2008

LUNAR ECLIPSE:  On Thursday morning, February 21st, the full Moon will turn a delightful shade of red and possibly turquoise, too. It's a total lunar eclipse—the last one until Dec. 2010.  Sky watchers in Europe, the Americas, parts of the Middle East and Africa are favored for good views of the two-hour event.  Visit for full coverage including maps and timetables, live webcasts and discussion.

SPY SATELLITE UPDATE:  The US Navy's first attempt to hit malfunctioning spy satellite USA 193 with a missile could come on Wednesday night during the lunar eclipse.  This is based on an air traffic advisory warning pilots to steer clear of a patch of Pacific Ocean near Hawaii just when USA 193 is due to pass overhead. Until the satellite is shot down, it remains visible to casual sky watchers during evening passes over US and Canadian towns and cities; experienced observers say the decaying satellite is sometimes as bright as the stars of Orion, making it an easy target for unaided eyes and off-the-shelf digital cameras.  Details, photos and more information are available at Subscribers to Spaceweather PHONE ( will receive email and telephone alerts when the spy-sat is about to appear over their backyards.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Titan's Surface Organics Surpass Oil Reserves on Earth

PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE  818-354-5011

Carolina Martinez 818-354-9382
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

NEWS RELEASE: 2008-025                          Feb. 13, 2008

Titan's Surface Organics Surpass Oil Reserves on Earth

Saturn's orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the
known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to new data from NASA's Cassini
spacecraft.  The hydrocarbons rain from the sky, collecting in vast deposits that form
lakes and dunes.

The new findings from the study led by Ralph Lorenz, Cassini radar team member from
the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md., are reported in
the Jan. 29 issue of the Geophysical Research Letters.

"Titan is just covered in carbon-bearing material—it's a giant factory of organic
chemicals," said Lorenz. "This vast carbon inventory is an important window into the
geology and climate history of Titan."

At a balmy minus 179 degrees Celsius (minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit), Titan is a far cry
from Earth.  Instead of water, liquid hydrocarbons in the form of methane and ethane are
present on the moon's surface, and tholins probably make up its dunes.  The term
"tholins"was coined by Carl Sagan in 1979 to describe the complex organic molecules at
the heart of prebiotic chemistry.

Cassini has mapped about 20 percent of Titan's surface with radar. Several hundred lakes
and seas have been observed, with each of several dozen estimated to contain more
hydrocarbon liquid than Earth's oil and gas reserves.  The dark dunes that run along the
equator contain a volume of organics several hundred times larger than Earth's coal

Proven reserves of natural gas on Earth total 130 billion tons, enough to provide 300
times the amount of energy the entire United States uses annually for residential heating,
cooling and lighting. Dozens of Titan's lakes individually have the equivalent of at least
this much energy in the form of methane and ethane.

"This global estimate is based mostly on views of the lakes in the northern polar regions.
We have assumed the south might be similar, but we really don't yet know how much
liquid is there," said Lorenz.  Cassini's radar has observed the south polar region only
once, and only two small lakes were visible.  Future observations of that area are planned
during Cassini's proposed extended mission.

Scientists estimated Titan's lake depth by making some general assumptions based on
lakes on Earth.  They took the average area and depth of lakes on Earth, taking into
account the nearby surroundings, like mountains.  On Earth, the lake depth is often 10
times less than the height of nearby terrain.

"We also know that some lakes are more than 10 meters or so deep because they appear
literally pitch-black to the radar. If they were shallow we'd see the bottom, and we don't,"
said Lorenz.

The question of how much liquid is on the surface is an important one because methane is
a strong greenhouse gas on Titan as well as on Earth, but there is much more of it on
Titan. If all the observed liquid on Titan is methane, it would only last a few million
years, because as methane escapes into Titan's atmosphere, it breaks down and escapes
into space. If the methane were to run out, Titan could become much colder. Scientists
believe that methane might be supplied to the atmosphere by venting from the interior in
cryovolcanic eruptions.  If so, the amount of methane, and the temperature on Titan, may
have fluctuated dramatically in Titan's past.

"We are carbon-based life, and understanding how far along the chain of complexity
towards life that chemistry can go in an environment like Titan will be important in
understanding the origins of life throughout the universe," added Lorenz.

Cassini's next radar flyby of Titan is on Feb. 22, when the radar instrument will observe
the Huygens probe landing site.

For images and more information visit: and .

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space
Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of
Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science
Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and
assembled at JPL. The radar instrument was built by JPL and the Italian Space Agency,
working with team members from the United States and several European countries.


Spy Satellite Sightings

Space Weather News for Feb. 14, 2008

Malfunctioning spy satellite USA 193 has been in the news lately because of expectations that it will reenter Earth's atmosphere in March and turn into a spectacular fireball.  Reentry has not yet begun, but sky watchers are already noticing the satellite as it zips over Europe and the United States shining as brightly as a first or second magnitude star. Typical photos are shown on today's edition of

In fact, USA 193 may never reenter--at least not in one piece. Today, the Pentagon announced it will attempt to blast the satellite with a missile before its orbit decays. This would lessen the chances of dangerous satellite debris and fuel reaching the ground while increasing the population of space junk in low-Earth orbit.

Would you like to see USA 193 with your own eyes?  It is about to make a series of evening appearances over many US towns and cities, beginning this weekend and continuing until the Pentagon intervenes. Flyby timetables may be found at Heavens Above ( You can also receive telephone and email alerts when the satellite is about to fly over your backyard by subscribing to Spaceweather PHONE: .