back to article Bush orders US Navy to shoot down rogue spy sat

The US Navy will attempt to shoot down a malfunctioning American spy satellite before it falls to Earth, the Pentagon has confirmed. The plan has been approved by President George Bush, citing concern over toxic hydrazine fuel aboard the spacecraft. However, a top analyst has suggested the US is actually worried about secret …


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  1. Pete Silver badge

    what would be really funny

    ... is if the chinese shot it down first!.

    I can imagine the statement from the chinese government:

    "we were equally concerned about the risk to health from the unspent fuel and since China has a larger surface area than america, there was a greater chance of it falling on us. So we decided to use our proven sat-killer technology rather than wait for the americans, who might have missed"

    Maybe it'll become a new olympic sport?

  2. Law
    Paris Hilton

    erm... hang on

    Didn't America complain that China was causing a mess in space by shooting at things in orbit.... yet another case of "Its wrong if you want to do it, but if its me and for the good of me then its fine".

    Paris is confused by this.. obviously.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Or maybe

    instead of worrying about hydrazine or secret technology, they've simply decided it makes a good excuse for testing how good they are at destroying orbiting satellites?

  4. Lukin Brewer

    This sounds like a job for...

    ... the Jumbo Jet toted, anti-ICBM, laser sky-cannon!

  5. Anonymous Coward

    What aren't we being told

    That it isn't really a satellite - just a cover story to attack the lizard army's main base

  6. John B
    Paris Hilton

    Yeah right...

    So the US government is concerned about the potential loss of life from a falling satellite but it doesn't stop them from dropping ordinance on civilians, allied troops, et al.

    The pressure is on for them now to be able to hit their target, but if they miss they could always ask the Chinese to hit it for them, couldn't they? ;)

    Paris icon, because only she would believe the BS story they've concocted...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If there wasn't a shortage of Wiiss

    If there wasn't a shortage of Wii's then the line would arch backwards. So there's no reason to assume that PS3 will ever outsell the Wii even with it's recent resurgence it's not likely to be more popular than Wii.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Please, please, please...

    ...let them miss, just for the entertainment value.

  9. Klaus

    Hydrazine Excuse is Pure BS

    Speaking as a chemist: BS

    I would expect that the heat of re-entry would definitely cause the hydrazine to explode while still high in the atmosphere.

  10. Phil Rigby
    Paris Hilton

    Hope someone records the shooting!

    It would be so cool if they put a camera on the missile so we could watch it on YouTube afterwards - would be like watching the footage on CNN of the Gulf War (but without all the death this time). Of course, if they miss, then I guess we won't see it!

    So the article says the satellite orbits the earth every 90 minutes - how fast is the satellite moving? Also I know nothing about military weapons, what will they use to "lock on" to the satellite, radar lock?

    Paris Hilton icon because I'm probably as dumb as her when it comes to space things.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Times

    Was claiming it would be shot down over Ireland, in which case we should get a good view of the fireworks in the UK?

    Give the USN a bell and ask them when it is so we can watch!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    The Americans shooting at stuff?..

    Bet you a fiver a spokesperson of the US Navy will be on TV next week using the words 'regrettable' and 'misidentification'.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Judging by some of the comments posted, it looks like some people didn't read the article completely.

    So what's the odds on this falling on/near Blighty if the US don't manage to shoot it down ? ?

  14. Phil the Geek

    If I was Chinese...

    ...I would hit it with my anti-satellite missile - to assist the US in minimising the risk to humanity, of course! I would time it so that all the big important lumps of satellite land in a Chinese desert region. Six months later, "Genuine" spy satellites would appear on eBay at £14.99 (million) each plus shipping from Hong Kong. *Batteries and launch vehicle not included.

  15. ton

    design fault

    why didn't the idiot who designed it include lets say 20kg of c4 in the design so that it could be destroyed...?

    @ klaus

    actually no there have been a couple of cases with tanks like these that survived re-entry

  16. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    Of course....

    The recent news that the Iranians are planning their own spy sat would have no bearing on the Septics being eager to show off their anti-sat capability....

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Standard rant...

    How many millions of dollars for the wasted satellite, and how many more to modify a missile and mobilize the effort to shoot it down... People starving, working for minimum wage, no health care, blah blah blah. You get the idea. It just makes me a little sick.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    "Anything to stop it hitting eBay"

    Please please please, leave it alone. The tiny chance of the thing falling out of the sky and hitting the ebay headquarters is just too good a chance to miss!

    I think it's hilarious - if I were them I wouldn't have boasted about it. The world is watching for failure now. Clever move would be to try it, and it if failed, deny all knowledge. If successful, you look good. Personally I'm bracing myself for Sky One to suddenly go blank...

  19. Phil Rigby
    Paris Hilton

    How would Bush say it?

    Our satellite's re-entrification has been misunderestimated so we're firing off our ballisticified missiles to spatially destroy-ify the satellite so it doesn't endangerous the good people of America.

  20. Radim Horak
    IT Angle

    slight difference

    Well... I do not go along with the whole "dangerous and deadly hydrazine" and "saving poor people from falling debris" thing.

    This is definitely about protecting the secret technologies and international prestige.

    The big difference is that shooting down a satellite that is orbiting at 540 miles creates A LOT of debris that will orbit the Earth for a very long time (China) and shooting down this spy-bird at approx 130 miles where most of the garbage will fall back to Earth within matter of days/few weeks.

    And I don't really think that US has to do this as an answer to China. US had the ASAT technology in mid 80s. Look up the ASM-135 ASAT & F-15 combo platter :)

    Anyway.. hopefully someone will at least record the SM-3 launch and post it somewhere... because that will be the only exciting part of the "shoot down". If there is a successful interception then all you will get on the news will be some color blobs from the IR seeker on the kill-vehicle and that will be it.

    Still looking for the IT angle...

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Zack Branigan

    Bullseye a direct hit.... wait a minute we still have contact with the spy sat, so what did we hit?

    is it

    a ) The hubble telescope.

    b ) A Foreign embassy.

    c ) A random patch of desert in Iran we can now claim contained WMD.

    d ) The only bridge out of Springfield.

  22. Carlo Graziani
    Black Helicopters

    The Intramural Politics

    There is probably another political aspect, having to do with a bureaucratic squabble within the U.S. military.

    There is a view within the military that space is going to be militarized to some extent with the next couple of decades. This is setting off a bit of a contest to decide which of the service branches will lead the way. Obviously, the Air Force --- whose greatest nightmare is the creation of a new "Space Force" service arm --- would like to be anointed with space leadership. This is the principal reason for the AF's enthusiasm for space-related programs of dubious value and effectiveness, such as NMD. Missile defense, doesn't have to work, it just has to exist and be big and have space-related assets, so that when the decision to move weapons into space is made, the Air Force can argue that they are essentially already there, so why duplicate their effort instead of just expanding their existing mission?

    Naturally, the Navy has some reservations about its relegation to the damp bits of the Earth. So it is interesting to see that they have succeeded in grabbing this mission, which could otherwise have been carried out by the AF with one of their F15-launched sat-killers --- tested successfully in the '80s, with spares presumably warehoused somewhere. I bet there were some very watchable bureaucratic knife-fights involved in getting the Navy this assignment

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    First you cut the undersea cables....

    Then you unfortunately miss your target and zap their satellite links...

    Mine is the heavy grey overcoat covered in lead..... and if you can't see me head then it's because it's between my knees kissing my arse goodbye....

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Worried about Hydrazine

    Hydrazine boils at 114 degrees centrigrade, and has a flash point at just under 38 degrees. So the US are trying to tell me that there is a serious risk of making it back to earth after a re-entry on a space-craft without a heat shield? When the shuttle explodes leaving no debris just because of a heat shield being hit by some foam?

    Of course the US is hiding something. It makes you wonder whether the "broken" satellite is actually some sort of stealth satellite, and the shooting down exercise is going to correspond with the point it disappears off radar and starts doing more naughty things?

  25. Aitor


    My guess is that they are doing this for two reasons:

    1.- To demonstrate the world (i.e: china) that they are able to shot down satellites, despite those "litle papers" they signed about it.

    2.-To be able to say that the antiballistic system has a purpose.

    2b.-To test the missiles.

    Can someone with a bit of brain agree with the official statement?

  26. Dave S

    re: If there wasn't a shortage of Wiiss

    A very relevant and well thought out point.

    Join the US Navy and help their shouting people straight away.

    Coat? Yes please, the one with the tin hat in the pocket please.

  27. amanfromMars Silver badge

    @The Intramural Politics

    Then the Navy are commanding the Booby Prize, Carlo?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    Skeet shooting for *really* wealthy people?

    "Maybe it'll become a new olympic sport?"

    Think of it as a really rather expensive variation on skeet-shooting. :)

    I'm sorry, Mr. Gates can't take your call right now, he's out playing Missile Command. For real.

    Hey, I just had a great idea! Let's tell Steve Ballmer that the satellite is a Google-sponsored project running Linux, and then put him in a strategically placed location with a few thousand office chairs. SUCSESS!!1!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "What's the IT angle?"

    > "Our assessment is that [the satellite] wouldn't be of high intel value..."

    I would have thought the IT angle was obvious...?

    Mine's the Côte (du Rhône).

  30. Pete Silver badge

    @worried about hydrazine

    The scuttle left a *lot* of debris, that may be why the yanks are so worried. The particularly sensitive information is the size of the camera lens/mirror as this determines the size of objects on the ground that can be identified. Wreckage may also leave the CCD & other optics intact which would give info about the amount of ground in a photo and also the wavelengths of light the camera works at

  31. peter

    RE: This sounds like a job for...

    The airborne laser can fire upwards as well as the mirrors are multi-axis nose mounted, Re-assembly of the COIL laser began in October 2007 in preparation for aircraft integration beginning in early 2008. Just in time to test it on the fuel tank of this.

  32. Silentmaster101
    Black Helicopters


    what i think is going to happen is that they are going to launch a missile at the "malfunctioning" sat then it will shoot the missile down and they will have a successful test!

  33. Steven Hunter

    @Worried about Hydrazine

    "When the shuttle explodes leaving no debris"

    Or, if you live in our reality, lots of debris spread out over several states, including human remains found in Texas...

  34. Andy Bright

    People worry too much..

    If you're that concerned about them missing, just send up a shuttle filled with British and Canadian soldiers and park it next to the spy sat.

    I know what you're thinking but it won't work.

    Simply placing the satellite between the shuttle and whatever loose cannon they put in a plane to destroy it, will do nothing to prevent the destruction of the shuttle itself.

    I'm afraid American's having an unerring accuracy when it comes to killing their allies.

    I would be more concerned about whether the exploding shuttle would be enough to get the job done. Perhaps they should pack a couple of decent sized bombs in the cargo hold just to be on the safe side.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    Of course

    They'll never hit it. No chance of predicting the exact real-time trajectory of a falling satellite while hoping the intercepting missile will hit the target.

    I just hope and pray it isn't a heat-seeking job. It'll hit Noo Joisey.

  36. Morely Dotes

    Please stop!

    "The US Navy will attempt to shoot down a ... satellite" is GWB's cowboy terminology. the Navy will do no such thing. What the Navy will do is attempt to break up the satellite so that, as it *continues* to fall into the atmosphere, most of the pieces are destroyed by reentry friction.

    The fact that the USA currently has an illiterate chimp in the White House, shitting out press releases, does not remove the obligation that journalists have to check facts and attempt to use proper terminology. I wouldn't expect that of *\_The_Sun_'s hacks, but El Reg usually does a better job.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    It's all a cover.

    They fire off a missile from down here in vaguely the right direction, and then they get to test whether their old orbiting satellite-killers are still working.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Frank Zappa was right...

    ...we have truly entered, and are now living in, the Age of Incompetence.

    And since I live within the continental USA, I cannot even make an

    online wager w/respect to the outcome.

    Sidebar: Perhaps the USA government should allow all of the different

    uniformed services to take a shot at the sat, with any successful

    contender to win an additional billion dollars in funding.

    - The Garret

  39. Chris

    Wait! What?

    "Nonetheless, it was confirmed that the warships would not fire until the space shuttle Atlantis returns to Earth on 20 Feb."

    Why can't the shuttle intercept the malfunctioning satellite and give it a microsoft moment(turn it off and on again).

  40. heystoopid
    Paris Hilton


    So we have one SM3 Missile with a 28 lb odd (14kg) solid shot kinetic warhead which is designed to strike and punch neat round holes in compact precision assembled nuclear warhead of say 2 foot diameter at 100 miles up travelling at some 7000 mph and shatter the re entry heat shield at the same time !

    Thus hitting such a larger object like the Lacrosse Satellite is never a problem !

    Now we have a a very large 2300kg cylinder some 10 foot in diameter and 20 foot long rotating in three dimensions due to a combination of very thin air drag , solar winds and the earth's gravity well and magnetic fields acting upon the heavier end and the deployed radar array acting a bit like a friction aero brake of sorts ! So in the last two years it will not only be rotating but also tumbling/twisting end over end as it is free to move in three dimensions ! Remember all Newton's laws of motion also apply too ! So essentially a slingshot stone will have minimal effect on a travelling boulder , and a shot gun even less so as the shrapnel will rip little holes through the non resistant thin exterior fabric !

    It is a given to save weight the exterior will be made of a combination of ultra thin aluminium and gold foil with a sections covered in fragile ultra light weight solar cells , so the the terminal warhead will literally punch a number of fist size holes straight through from one side to the other at random which may or may not hit the hydrazine fuel tanks within the satellites body dependent on the time of impact and relative to the bodies motion in three dimensions !

    However one can not ignore the fact that current Aegis Cruisers with have a finite limit on the number of silo launched SM3's and after x number of rounds the gun is empty and have a limited firing arc to intercept window given the terminal velocity of the satellite and the fixed range of the missile , it's time to terminal velocity and fixed maximum range and time to fire from target acquisition on board ships computers calculating range and shoot numbers before it drops below the horizon very quickly as everything is relative !

    As Paris would say "Duck and Cover , Nuts to the moron that thought this one up !"

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    How else can a poor old boy get rich

    Dont be a spoil sport now and shoot the thing down. You can bid on it on ebay too. Its a democrocy remember.

  42. storng.bare.durid
    Paris Hilton

    The REAL reason...

    Err... they may have got vista running the damn aegis system now, perhaps they have realised it might be good idea to see if actually can work.

    Can any one imagine what's in the Standard Missle 3's brain? "Specially modified software" zOMG must be the new vista patch! That pwnz0rrrz!!one!!eleventeen

    Seriously folks, on that night, I'd try and find out if an aegis cruiser was likely to be remotely near you. If so, err hide maybe..

    @JonB. If any yank debris falls over my fair county of Cork because of your lame arse suggestion they shoot it down over Ireland I shall personally come over and kick you in the knackers and walk on your face:P

    Paris Hilton Icon. For all the paris hilton parts and peeps in the USN.

  43. Anonymous Coward

    RE: Wait! What?

    The shuttle is in the wrong place to intercept the satellite given its limited fuel supply - space is quite big when you come to think of it. Same applies to e.g. the Mars rover...

  44. Michael
    Black Helicopters

    Militarisation of space???

    So does this mean there's going to be a new space race? to annex the lagrange point?

  45. Richard Boyce

    Lower orbits are faster

    Just to nit pick, but wouldn't "now slowing down and descending" be better as "now descending and speeding up"?

  46. Anonymous Coward

    But they will fail...

    And I'll have to go help bail uncle sam out again...

    On that starry night,

    look to the moon,

    but you will not find me there any time soon.

    look to the sea,

    but it will most certainly be not me.

    look to the clouds

    you will find nought about.

    But look to the sky,


    Boom, Headshot !!(satellite)


    Boom, Headshot !!(SM3 missle)

    FPS Doug t3h 0G Pwnz0r3rrr

  47. Anonymous Coward


    Don't sell the parts on eBay! Thats what they want you to do, they would then just pull the auction, get all your details from your account and raid your house.

    You have to sell it on the black market, getting in touch with an agent from whichever country you think deserves it would be the best option. Though the Brit spooks would probably just hand the pieces straight back to the US, so someone else would have to do. If you were greedy and/or like Putin, Russia would probably give the best price.

  48. Ade
    IT Angle


    looking at the ground track of the satilite it never passes over American soil... it skirts up the Atlantic seaboard and over Greenland.....

    @AC - Skeet shooting..

    Bill G - What did you guys do at the weekend?

    Steve J - Scored a couple of birds over the Eastern Seaboard...

    Larry E - He was always a better shot than me..

  49. Joe Cooper

    @Lower orbits are faster

    "Just to nit pick, but wouldn't "now slowing down and descending" be better as "now descending and speeding up"?"

    Lemme explain.

    *Low orbit means high ground speed. This is true.

    *The satellite is slow and getting slower.


    *Soon the satellite won't be orbiting anymore :)

  50. Anonymous Coward

    Use a nuke

    If they used a nuclear device to do this they wouldn't have to be as close and all the hydrazine would be gone. You laugh but knowing these people are you sure they wouldn't.

  51. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Place your Bets, Please.

    "If you were greedy and/or like Putin, Russia would probably give the best price." ... By Anonymous Coward Posted Sunday 17th February 2008 16:05 GMT

    Greed does not come into IT at all, AC. IT has any number of Real Commercial Values, which can only be set by Markets with Interest/Needs.

    Mr Putin's words do not support any thought of greed but may well warrant reward ..."As for my personal feeling, I am not ashamed to stand before the people who twice gave me their votes and elected me to be President of the Russian Federation. I have worked like a galley slave throughout these eight years, morning till night, and I have given all I could to this work. I am happy with the results."

    Some leaders do not even dare to go to the country for support and therefore must be judged right dodgy leaderships ...... and definitely probably more driven by greed.

  52. Onionman

    Will it hit Blighty

    You might think the chances of this hitting anyone are slim, but as a sufferer of keraunothnetophobia* I can assure you that some of us have cause to worry.



    * Look it up yourself. I had to.

  53. Andy Worth


    In which case, it probably has about a 1-in-1000 chance of hitting somewhere populated, the only time that the fuel would be a toxicity issue.

    The reasoning makes no sense if you believe the story they tell you does it? They let hundreds of other objects (of a decent size) fall into the atmosphere every year but are worried about this particular one?

    Nah....pull the other one....they wouldn't waste the cost of this missile unless that satellite had something on it that it really shouldn't have.

  54. Gordon Crawford

    think , It is even deeper and more evil

    I'll bite, and take the bet,

    A ] Georges investments in war stock forgot to take into account of missiles,we are not USAing enough any more in his wars..

    B ] It is harder then you can imagine to shot a falling sat down [when you are really aiming at someone else's sat. behind your sat.] (oh sorry, we did not realize that your sat. was behind our target...but we sorta got ours )

    C ] and still hit some target with the debris ( " we did our best to prevent this from happening, but it was an act of GOD")

    the tri fecta

    ahh no, I'm gonna take my coat off and stay, they already know where i might go.

  55. Mark Ashworth

    So the US are going to shoot something.

    I take it that this means they'll probably hit Milton Keynes then.....

    on second thoughts, no loss there then.

  56. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Notting Hill/Conservative Central Office Rebuke/Cuff round the Ear.

    "You might think the chances of this hitting anyone are slim, but as a sufferer of keraunothnetophobia* I can assure you that some of us have cause to worry.


    Onionman." ......By Onionman Posted Monday 18th February 2008 08:20 GMT


    Have no Fear, there is more than enough Energy Psychology Solutions/Virtualised Therapy available.

    Presently we are Realising IT but Virtual Global Governance is somewhat Novel and the Status Quo Establishment are all in a Tither about what to do with IT whenever Introduced to ITs Plays. A Pregnant Silence is their Irrational Fear Response which leaves them Following in ITs Wake rather than Inputting Lead ....... and how Stupid is that?

    cc Neither Tory Toff nor Twit.

  57. Anonymous Coward

    Thieves! Thieves!

    John R Pike said;

    "The Chinese and the Russians spend an enormous amount of time trying to steal American technology..."

    Why would they want to do that?

    Unless the Lizards gave it to the US and so it would be more advanced than whatever the Russians and Chinese have thought of (not what they are actually using)?

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Ade

    Although the orbit path does not pass over North America at this very moment, remember that the Earth rotates and therefore the points at which the orbit passes over the Equator circle the globe once every 24 hours. That satellite could land literally anywhere on the planet between 60 degrees north and 60 degrees south of the Equator.

  59. Nick

    I see

    They are either testing their new toy out or have something that they shouldnt on their sat. My guess is Bush wants to test his new toy.

  60. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Software as a Special IntelAIgents Service

    "The Chinese and the Russians spend an enormous amount of time trying to steal American technology..."

    Might I venture that they spend their dwindling value dollar currency, to whatever amount would be appropriate to Technology Use, on Betas independent of State Controls. The Private Sector will deliver whatever is required, in whatever flavour/colour/strength that one would wish for. It has always done so.

    Stealing American technology, behind the times and from behind their lines, is an enormous waste of time. One merely needs to see where it has led them to know where their technology leads...... which is presently trying to stave off Meltdown and Home Anarchy because of Gross Mismanagement of the American Dream.

    This would allow the new Dollar Stakeholders to further BetaTest their Independent State Controls and Offer Versions Upgraded and Bespoke Tailored to Wider Needs. ...... Win Win if you Dare.

    And the Egghead Boffin because Skull and Bones are so Yesterday ..... The King is dead. Long live the King. Vroom Vroom rather than Boom Boom.

  61. Stan

    Watch the news....

    ...not the lead story though. The yanks have been at this for years, doing the dirty work while some big issue is grabbing the headlines. God only knows who they are going to slaughter or what dodgy decisions will be made while the world soaks up the blabberings of the 'experts' and ooh's and aah's over the el-cheapo projected paths on the news channels.

    Still, I doubt the info was released deliberately, they stand to get a lot of egg on their face if they miss. Keeping my fingers crossed they miss and have to ask china to bail them out :)


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