Archive for the ‘debris’ Category

U.S. Satellite Debris Response Team

February 22, 2008

No matter where the satellite debris lands, Operation Burnt Frost won’t be far behind.

That’s the name the U.S. army has given the quick response team tasked with cleaning up the pieces of the errant satellite shot down on Wednesday.
Made up of military and civilian personnel from at least 15 government agencies, the group is on standby to travel anywhere pieces of the bus-sized satellite may have fallen. .
Of particular concern is its 500 kilogram fuel tank filled with toxic hydrazine.
The team, comprised of members from the Air Force, Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency, has hazardous material suits at the ready to guard them against hydrazine on the ground or in the air. They would wear breathing apparatuses to protect their lungs from the fumes and use absorbent material similar to kitty litter to soak it up if it were to leak.

“This is an incredible effort,” Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Horne, who’s in charge of the team, told The Associated Press. “What we’re doing is to make sure that we’re ready as soon as we’re called.”

The unit was assembled in less than a week as the U.S. military made preparations to shoot down the satellite, which failed shortly after it was sent into space in 2006, losing power and central computer function. It was successfully targeted with a missile Wednesday night by a Navy cruiser, achieving the stated goal of exploding its tank of hazardous fuel.

However, Gen. James Cartwright said Thursday the military will not be positive that the tank was completely destroyed for 24 to 48 hours. If fragments remain, Burnt Frost will be there to come to the rescue.

Other pieces of the satellite have been tracked entering the atmosphere, but none was larger than a football, Cartwright said.

If the plan to shoot down the 2,000-kilogram satellite seems unusual, that’s because it was. Non-functional satellites usually fall to Earth by themselves, burning up in the atmosphere upon re-entry. This one would have touched down during the first week of March, according to a military estimate.

In this case, officials said they didn’t want to risk the dangerous hydrazine hitting the ground, as fumes from the gas can kill people. Hydrazine is often used to power spacecraft, but can also be used in fuel cells and the manufacture of pharmaceuticals.

They’re hoping that if the tank wasn’t completely destroyed, it lands in the ocean, where the hydrazine would be neutralized by the water.

While the U.S. military seems pleased with how they’ve handled the satellite’s destruction, not everyone is cheering — particularly China, which was criticized by the United States for testing a satellite-killing weapons system in 2007.

The official word from the U.S. has been that the shoot-down wasn’t a test, but Defence Secretary Robert Gates recently indicated otherwise. When responding to China’s calls for more information, he said his country has provided sufficient information about “the test.”

U.S. officials said they’re confident any secret technology would be destroyed on re-entry but the explosion definitely helps matters.

Members of the Burnt Frost crew, however, are focused on making sure no one comes into contact with the controversial satellite’s fuel. The team, which is currently waiting at McGuire Air Force Base in central New Jersey, is experienced in locating debris over a large area. Some members worked on recovery operations after the explosion of the Columbia space shuttle in 2003 while others were deployed to clean up an oil spill that saw thousands of litres of crude dumped into the Delaware River in 2004.

The team’s members have been fitted with body armour and helmets in case the satellite falls into a war zone. They’ve also been vaccinated against tropical diseases like yellow fever and malaria.

No matter where it lands, the U.S. State Department is warning citizens worldwide to keep their distance.

With files from CTV’s Tom Walters, Peace and Freedom and The Associated Press


After Missile Hit Satellite, Debris Not a Problem

February 21, 2008

WASHINGTON – Debris from an obliterated U.S. spy satellite is being tracked over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans but appears to be too small to cause any damage on Earth, a senior military officer said Thursday, just hours after a Navy missile scored a direct hit on the failing satellite.

Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and an expert on military space technologies, told a Pentagon news conference that officials have a “high degree of confidence” that the missile launched from a Navy cruiser Wednesday night hit exactly where intended.
This US Department of Defense handout photograph shows Vice ... 
This US Department of Defense handout photograph shows Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James E. Cartwright from the US Marine Corps informing the US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates of the successful missile intercept from the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center.(AFP/DOD)

He estimated there was an 80-90 percent chance that the missile struck the most important target on the satellite — its fuel tank, containing 1,000 pounds of hydrazine, which Pentagon officials say could have posed a health hazard to humans if it had landed in a populated area.

Read the rest:;_ylt=

Graphic of operation to destroy US spy satellite. A US missile ...

China: No to U.S. Missile Shot at Satellite

February 17, 2008

BEIJING (Reuters) – China is concerned by U.S. plans to shoot down an ailing spy satellite and is considering what “preventative measures” to take, the Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.

“The Chinese government is paying close attention to how the situation develops and demands the U.S. side fulfill its international obligations and avoids causing damage to security in outer space and of other countries,” spokesman Liu Jianchao said.

President George W. Bush has decided to have the Navy shoot the 5,000-pound (2,270 kg) satellite with a modified tactical missile after security advisers suggested its re-entry could lead to a loss of life, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

“Relevant departments in China are closely watching the situation and studying preventive measures,” Liu said in a brief statement posted on the Foreign Ministry’s Web site (

On Saturday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said the U.S. plan could be used as a cover to test a new space weapon.

It will be the first time the United States has conducted an anti-satellite operation since the 1980s. Russia also has not conducted anti-satellite activities in 20 years.

China launched a ground-based missile into an obsolete weather satellite in January 2007, drawing international criticism and worries inside the Pentagon that Beijing has the ability to target critical military assets in space.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard)

Related (with video):
Russia Says U.S. Satellite May Be “Space Weapon” Test

Navy Will Attempt to Down Spy Satellite

U.S. Navy Missile Destroys Dangerous Satellite

China calls on US to provide data on satellite shootdown

Gates says U.S. will share satellite destruction data with China

Graphic of operation to destroy US spy satellite. A US missile ...