Archive for the ‘fuel tank’ 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


U.S. Navy Missile Destroys Dangerous Satellite

February 21, 2008

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
February 21, 2008

The United States Navy launched a missile that destroyed a dangerous satellite last night, high over the Pacific Ocean.

One missile; one hit.

Pentagon sources told Peace and Freedom that China requested all data on the event “almost immediately; within a few hours.”

The satellite, USA 193, was passing over the Pacific Ocean at about 17,000 miles per hour and at an altitude of about 130 miles.  It was hit by an SM-3 Missile launched by sailors aboard USS Lake Erie.

A Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) is launched from a guided-missile ...
A Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) is launched from a guided-missile cruiser in an image courtesy of the U.S. Navy. A missile from a U.S. Navy warship hit a defunct U.S. spy satellite 133 nautical miles (247 km) above the Earth in an attempt to blow apart its tank of toxic fuel, the Pentagon said on Wednesday. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout 

From missile launch to satellite destruction the mission time elapsed was only about three minutes.

The Navy announced that various sensors detected a “large explosion.”  Sensor analysts believe the fuel tank of the satellite had been hit as intended because they witnessed that “large explosion” but the Navy said computer analysis to confirm those first impressions would take about 24 hours.

The satellite’s fuel tank contained about 1,000 pounds of toxic hydrazine rocket fuel.

The Bush Administration said the mission was solely to destroy that dangerous hydrazine fuel.  President Bush made the decision to schedule the mission.  Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made the launch decision based upon information provided to him by military advisors last night.
The U.S. Navy may make its first attempt to shoot down an errant ... 

The mission was carried out, a spokesman said, because of the danger posed if some of that hydrazine survived reentry and landed on earth.  The hydrazine could have harmed humans and animals on earth.

“Nearly all of the debris will burn up on re-entry within 24-48 hours and the remaining debris should re-enter within 40 days,” a military spokesman said. 

Military analyst John Pike said the satellite, immediately after the missile hit, would be mostly “gravel.”
“A network of land, air, sea and space-based sensors confirms that the U.S. military intercepted a nonfunctioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite, which was in its final orbits before entering the Earth’s atmosphere,” a Pentagon statement said.

Those same sensors will be used to monitor debris as it enters the earth’s atmosphere.

The SM-3 missile alone cost nearly $10 million, and officials estimated that the total cost of the project was at least $30 million.  The satellite cost about one billion dollars but it failed in 2006 just after it was launched into space.

“But if you kill something dangerous heading for people on earth; what is the right amount to spend?” a military officer asked rhetorically.


From the Washington Post:
Navy Missile Hits Satellite

From Associated Press Military Writer Robert Burns:
Navy Missile Destroys Dying Satellite

Peace and Freedom Note: People that know me have seen me follow Navy missile evolution for about 30 years.  In 1991, when Saddam Hussein launched SCUD ballistic missiles, we detected and tracked those from U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf.  Subsequently, we were involved in the initial concept development for Navy ballistic missile defense.  Last night’s missile destruction of a dangerous satellite was one more step in the development of missile defense, first envisioned by President Ronald Reagan.

On March 23, 1983, President Reagan announced from the Oval Office, “I’ve reached a decision which offers a new hope for our children in the 21st century.” He explained his vision — and his defense budget’s inclusion — of the first funds to go toward this nation’s missile defense effort.
Liberals, and most of the media, derided the president’s project as “star wars.” Since 1983, America’s Missile Defense effort has become a multinational, multi-system effort: it has reached into space and it has come down to earth and the sea.

An undated image of Earth as seen from space. The U.S. Navy ...

Navy Missile Hits Satellite

February 21, 2008

 By Marc Kaufman and Josh White  
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 21, 2008; Page A01

A missile fired from a Navy cruiser in the Pacific Ocean hit an out-of-control spy satellite falling toward Earth last night, Pentagon officials said.

They said that a single SM-3 missile fired from the USS Lake Erie hit the satellite at 10:26 p.m. Eastern time. The missile struck the dead satellite about 150 miles above Earth as it traveled in orbit at more than 17,000 mph.

Military officials had hoped to rupture the satellite’s fuel tank to prevent 1,000 pounds of hydrazine from crashing to Earth, a situation they depicted as potentially hazardous for people on the ground. It was unclear last night whether the missile hit was able to break up the fuel tank, but Pentagon officials said they hope to determine that within 24 hours.

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