By Marc Kaufman and Walter Pincus
Wednesday, February 20, 2008; Page A03
The Bush administration’s attempt to shoot down an out-of-control spy satellite as early as this evening will help the military advance its anti-missile and anti-satellite planning and technology, according to space weapons experts and analysts. Both fields are of high interest to the military and of high concern for many other nations.
While U.S. officials have depicted the attempt solely as a precaution against the slim chance that the satellite’s hazardous rocket fuel could harm people on Earth, the test will inherently have spillover military consequences, the experts said.
To accomplish this week’s task, for example, the Navy has modified its Aegis anti-missile radar system for satellite tracking, making clear that a system designed for missile defense can be transformed into an anti-satellite system in a short time.
The attempted shoot-down will also enable the Pentagon to practice using, in an urgent scenario, key elements of its space defense apparatus, including the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and its sophisticated space identification, tracking and targeting system.