U.S. Missile Shoots Down Satellite - but Why?

By Peter Grier; Gordon Lubold | The Christian Science Monitor, February 22, 2008 | Go to article overview

U.S. Missile Shoots Down Satellite - but Why?


Peter Grier; Gordon Lubold, The Christian Science Monitor


Yes, the Pentagon can obliterate a broken satellite tumbling at the edge of space. The question is, why bother?

That is the reaction of some experts to the successful destruction Feb. 20 of a dead US spy satellite 153 miles over the Pacific Ocean.

The official explanation - that the US wanted to prevent the toxic contents of the spacecraft's fuel tank from hitting the ground - seems a bit thin, according to James Lewis, director of the technology and public policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Thus critics from around the world have speculated about ulterior motives, ranging from a desire to test US ballistic missile defenses to poking China in the eye.

Mr. Lewis says he thinks the Defense Department crunched the numbers and found there was a chance the satellite might come down somewhere embarrassing, or dangerous, like the landmass of a foreign country. He thinks it was not the fuel tank's toxic hydrazine fuel, but a more general desire to prevent any impact, that led to the decision to shoot it down.

"It was a surfeit of caution," says Lewis.

A three-stage Navy SM-3 missile hit the satellite 153 miles up, just northwest of Hawaii, said military officials at a Feb. 21 news conference.

The missile's kill vehicle contained no explosives and had to maneuver into the path of the satellite and collide with it, destroying it with kinetic force. The spacecraft - described as being about the size of a school bus, and weighing about 5,000 pounds - exploded spectacularly.

That fireball likely indicates that the frozen hydrazine fuel was destroyed, said military officials, but they won't know for sure until Feb. 23 or 24.

"Our objective was to intercept the satellite, reduce the mass that might survive reentry, [and] vector that mass into unpopulated areas, ideally the ocean," said Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The military has long described the difficulty of hitting an object in space with a missile as being akin to striking a bullet with another bullet. With the 25th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's original speech calling for a Strategic Defense Initiative coming up on March 23, the US has now fully demonstrated such a capability. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

U.S. Missile Shoots Down Satellite - but Why?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.