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U.S. to Shoot Broken Satellite Carrying Lethal Fuel

LordOpie

MOTHER HEN
Oct 17, 2002
21,027
3
Denver
Feb. 14 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. military said it will try to shoot down a broken spy satellite within two weeks, aiming to destroy the object before it crashes to Earth carrying lethal chemicals.

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Couple questions:

1. How come they don't send satellites with a self-destruct option?

2. If the boat launched missles miss, then that's a waste, so why not put a manual guidance system with a small fuel supply (to navigate in space) on a missle so they can pull right up to the satellite and then manually detonate?
 

S.K.C.

Turbo Monkey
Feb 28, 2005
4,104
25
Pa. / North Jersey
Yeah - when I saw that I smelled BS.

Plenty of satellites have been allowed to decay in orbit to the point where they re-enter earth's atmosphere and then make landfall. Some of them use fissionable materials for a fuel source, but sometimes the satellites can be guided with thrusters to make landfall in a relatively uninhabited part of the world.

Since it's a spy-satellite that they want to shoot down, God only knows what kind of stuff they have on board.

My guess is this:

1) They can't control orbital decay and they know it's going to land someplace they don't want it to (the ocean) so that's why they're gonna pop it out of the sky.

or

2) They can't control orbital decay and the thing is running some kind of fissionable materials power source (statement was that it contains "hazardous materials") and that they know it would make landfall in a densly populated area.

But who knows really.

Maybe the Navy is getting blue-balls and they want an excuse to blow something out of the sky.

:biggrin:
 

DH Diva

Wonderwoman
Jun 12, 2002
1,808
1
As long as they orchestrate the entire event to "Rocketman" I'm okay with it.
 

urbaindk

The Real Dr. Science
Jul 12, 2004
4,821
0
Sleepy Hollar
If what I read is to be believed, the satellite is the size of a large city transit bus. It probably wouldn't burn up completely upon reentry. The "hazardous" material on board is a few hundred pounds of the solid rocket fuel hydrozine, pretty nasty stuff, but not fissionable material. The effects of breathing it would be similar to inhalation of ammonia or chlorine gas. Hard on the damn lungs, fo' sho'. That's the official line anyway.

Personally, I'm not sure what to think. Seems fishy that the Chinese recently tested a surface-to-space missile system to shoot down one of their failed weather satellites. I'm guessing (pure conjecture here) that the US is looking at this as a test of a satellite intecept system using the hazardous material as a convenient cover.

The problem with the Chinese test is that they blew theirs up in high orbit leaving a huge field of debris, most of which will remain in orbit (nice). The US is waiting until the thing is about to reenter before targeting it, so the pieces will actually fall and burn up rather than trashing up space. That's a positive at least.
 

BikeGeek

BrewMonkey
Jul 2, 2001
4,424
72
Hershey, PA
My guess is this:

1) They can't control orbital decay and they know it's going to land someplace they don't want it to (the ocean) so that's why they're gonna pop it out of the sky.

or

2) They can't control orbital decay and the thing is running some kind of fissionable materials power source (statement was that it contains "hazardous materials") and that they know it would make landfall in a densly populated area.
You forgot #3 which, in my mind is even more likely:
3)They want to test the shipboard missile system against a satellite without raising too much of stink.

I didn't read the article, but if it is the Aegis-based Standard missile 3 that's being called for the job, #3 gets my vote.

edit: just read it and it is an SM-3
 

urbaindk

The Real Dr. Science
Jul 12, 2004
4,821
0
Sleepy Hollar
Hydrazine is not solid fuel. It's a colorless liquid and it is very nasty stuff. The have procedures after the shuttle lands to avoid killing the astronauts with it when they exit the shuttle.
OK, sure but the freezing point is pretty high (2° C.) It certainly would be liquid at RT (25° C) but maybe not in space, depending on which end of the satellite was point at the sun, of course.

Yeah, It's pretty nasty: MSDS Probably better than dumping a bunch of Pu into though wouldn't you think? At least once it's reacted it's gone.

Fuel: Hydrazine. Fuel Density: 1.008 g/cc. Fuel Freezing Point: 2.00 deg C. Fuel Boiling Point: 113 deg C.
Hydrazine (N2H4) found early use as a fuel, but it was quickly replaced by UDMH. It is still used as a monopropellant for satellite station-keeping motors. Hydrazine marketed for rocket propellant contains a minimum of 97 per cent N2H4, the other constituent being primarily water. Hydrazine is a clear, water-white, hygroscopic liquid. The solid is white. Hydrazine a toxic, flammable caustic liquid and a strong reducing agent.
 
OK, sure but the freezing point is pretty high (2° C.) It certainly would be liquid at RT (25° C) but maybe not in space, depending on which end of the satellite was point at the sun, of course.

Yeah, It's pretty nasty: MSDS Probably better than dumping a bunch of Pu into though wouldn't you think? At least once it's reacted it's gone.
The shuttle uses hydrazine and oxygen for its orbital maneuvering subsystem. I don't know what they do to keep it fluid in the tanks. I do recall that for thirty seconds or so after a burn starts you need to estimate fuel level rather than using the sensors because in zero g the fuel tends to hang aroung in random globs and it takes time to settle.
 

kev211

Monkey
Jan 22, 2008
320
0
San Diago
2. If the boat launched missles miss, then that's a waste, so why not put a manual guidance system with a small fuel supply (to navigate in space) on a missle so they can pull right up to the satellite and then manually detonate?
It wont miss. My dad actually designed the defense system that is gonna be shooting the missile, and he had to go into work today to run the program to make sure it was still good to go. The missle will hit. And supposedly, the missle isnt just an ordinary missle. I dont know what it is, but my dad couldnt tell me. So, I guess its a pretty gnarly missile
 

Dartman

Old Bastard Mike
Feb 26, 2003
3,916
0
Richmond, VA
It wont miss. My dad actually designed the defense system that is gonna be shooting the missile, and he had to go into work today to run the program to make sure it was still good to go. The missle will hit. And supposedly, the missle isnt just an ordinary missle. I dont know what it is, but my dad couldnt tell me. So, I guess its a pretty gnarly missile
Tell him to be careful with his floating point to integer conversions!

On June 4, 1996 an unmanned Ariane 5 rocket launched by the European Space Agency exploded just forty seconds after its lift-off from Kourou, French Guiana. The rocket was on its first voyage, after a decade of development costing $7 billion. The destroyed rocket and its cargo were valued at $500 million. A board of inquiry investigated the causes of the explosion and in two weeks issued a report. It turned out that the cause of the failure was a software error in the inertial reference system. Specifically a 64 bit floating point number relating to the horizontal velocity of the rocket with respect to the platform was converted to a 16 bit signed integer. The number was larger than 32,767, the largest integer storeable in a 16 bit signed integer, and thus the conversion failed.
 

S.K.C.

Turbo Monkey
Feb 28, 2005
4,104
25
Pa. / North Jersey
You forgot #3 which, in my mind is even more likely:
3)They want to test the shipboard missile system against a satellite without raising too much of stink.

I didn't read the article, but if it is the Aegis-based Standard missile 3 that's being called for the job, #3 gets my vote.

edit: just read it and it is an SM-3
Yep - An SM-3 would be the most likely candidate for such a task, although it would need a different guidance system and a way to track the satellite during in-flight... they would need some serious radar capabilites to handle the tracking of that thing - maybe X-Band? But last I heard that system was breaking down more often than an 84' Yugo. :)

The whole "hydrazine" excuse to shoot it down just doesn't make any sense though - the cloud it would create would be relatively harmless, (spread over maybe a few acres) and that's IF the tank ruptured on impact. There's gotta be another explanation.

I still say it's either because the Navy and EG&G have a hard-on for testing some new track & shoot platform like OR there is something on that spy satellite that they REALLY don't want recovered.
 

BikeGeek

BrewMonkey
Jul 2, 2001
4,424
72
Hershey, PA
Yep - An SM-3 would be the most likely candidate for such a task, although it would need a different guidance system and a way to track the satellite during in-flight... they would need some serious radar capabilites to handle the tracking of that thing - maybe X-Band? But last I heard that system was breaking down more often than an 84' Yugo. :)
You heard wrong. Aegis BMD - 12 intercepts in 14 attempts.
 

buildyourown

Turbo Monkey
Feb 9, 2004
4,837
0
South Seattle
It wont miss. My dad actually designed the defense system that is gonna be shooting the missile, and he had to go into work today to run the program to make sure it was still good to go. The missle will hit. And supposedly, the missle isnt just an ordinary missle. I dont know what it is, but my dad couldnt tell me. So, I guess its a pretty gnarly missile

Kinda like the Patriot missile systems of Iraq: Round 1?
Or maybe our ICBM intercept?
Or how about Star Wars? The Reagan version, not the George Lucas one.

You're probably too young to remember those but our gov has a history of spending billions on missiles to shoot down missiles.
Apparently, it's quite tricky, so the military tells everybody that they work great, when in actuality, they don't work at all.
 

BikeGeek

BrewMonkey
Jul 2, 2001
4,424
72
Hershey, PA
Kinda like the Patriot missile systems of Iraq: Round 1?
Patriot was never designed to shoot down missiles. It was an anti-aircraft system with a last minute software tweak.

Or maybe our ICBM intercept?
Which one? Aegis BMD has been quite successful at midcourse intercepts and THAAD is finally proving itself in the terminal phase. It's only a matter of time before what's working with these systems is applied to others.

Or how about Star Wars? The Reagan version...
Brilliant Pebbles was an ingenious concept. It was cut for political more than any other reasons.

...so the military tells everybody that they work great, when in actuality, they don't work at all.
Really? So all of those successful intercepts that I watched in real time from the General's conference room at the Missile Defense Agency were faked?
 

Reactor

Turbo Monkey
Apr 5, 2005
3,978
1
Chandler, AZ, USA
Really? So all of those successful intercepts that I watched in real time from the General's conference room at the Missile Defense Agency were faked?
You'd be surprised how often they are. From skewing statistics, to using "enhancement" to help identify the target. In fact the general you sat with may have helped fake it.

A former employee of the military contractor TRW has charged the company with faking test results in the $27-billion missile defense program. Nira Schwartz, who worked on Star Wars software in 1995 and 1996, says the company dodged the truth in repeated reports to the Pentagon. Here's how the New York Times explained it: "In test after test, the interceptors failed, she has alleged, but her superiors insisted that the technology performed adequately, refused her appeals to tell industrial partners and federal patrons of its shortcomings, and then fired her."

The issue concerned the ability to distinguish real warheads from decoy balloons, a critical capacity for missile defense. In papers filed in federal court, Schwartz charged that while TRW told the government that its system made the correct distinction 95 percent of the time, in reality it worked 5 percent to 15 percent of the time.

The target destroyed in the "successful" defense shield test contained a global positioning satellite beacon that made it easier to detect. Why has the media mostly ignored the story?

Precisely according to plan, the target was instantly vaporized on impact -- and along with it, or so the Pentagon's uniformed salesmen hoped, the perennial concern that missile defense won't work. With the cooperation of major news organizations and conservative pundits, that test provided an enormous propaganda boost to the Bush proposal, which conveniently enough had been brought up to Capitol Hill by Defense Department officials just two days earlier.

There was only one thing that all the happy salesmen forgot to mention about their latest test drive. The rocket fired from Vandenberg was carrying a global positioning satellite beacon that guided the kill vehicle toward it. In other words, it would be fair to say that the $100 million test was rigged.
No wonder, then, that Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, the Air Force officer who oversees the NMD program, told the Washington Post on the eve of the test that he was "quietly confident" about the outcome. The general knew about the GPS beacon, while the reporters didn't.

This rather significant aspect of the July 14 mission remained hidden in the fine print until a few days ago, when the Pentagon confirmed the role of the GPS device to a reporter for Defense Week magazine. But of course most Americans still don't know why the test functioned so smoothly, because the Defense Week scoop was either buried or ignored by the mainstream media, which had so obediently celebrated the technological breakthrough two weeks earlier.

And as Kadish later acknowledged, each of the previous three tests -- two of which failed anyway -- had also involved the use of a guidance beacon. (To longtime observers of the missile-defense effort, this latest news recalled the notorious "Star Wars" scandal, when investigators discovered that a target had been secretly heated to ensure that it would be picked up by the interceptor's infrared sensor.)

Bogus tests and bullied critics are the hallmarks of a defense establishment that fears facts. With billions in contracts at stake and bellicose ideologues in power, the salesmen for national missile defense must conceal the many defects in their dangerous product. And the press corps, reverting to the bad habits of the Cold War, has done little so far to penetrate the Pentagon's propaganda.

So when the next "successful" missile-defense test is announced with fanfare and fireworks, don't necessarily believe what you hear. You are the buyers targeted by this massive sales effort -- and you should most certainly beware.
 
yaaaay, lets go shoot billions of our citizens tax dollars at more billions of our citizens tax dollars and watch them blow eachother up!!!

so theres no way to spend the rest of that fuel and send the thing screaming headlong into the asteroid belt? man if they did, the inhabitablenvironmentalists would be all over the government!!! but that doesnt cost billions of dollars does it? and we dont get to watch the boom with all of its intensity... well scrap that then!

sorry if i overlooked whether the thing is malfunctional or not, but if it functions whay dont we turn it around before it comes back into orbit? theres not much to aim for and not much to miss out there right?
send it off and forget about it... it might come back in a parallel universe though!!! lol

**edit**
wow what a dumba$$, it says its broken in the title.... sorry guys, i'm deleriously tired
 

kev211

Monkey
Jan 22, 2008
320
0
San Diago
Kinda like the Patriot missile systems of Iraq: Round 1?
Or maybe our ICBM intercept?
Or how about Star Wars? The Reagan version, not the George Lucas one.

You're probably too young to remember those but our gov has a history of spending billions on missiles to shoot down missiles.
Apparently, it's quite tricky, so the military tells everybody that they work great, when in actuality, they don't work at all.
Hey, Im not saying theres not any flaws! Personally I think its kind of a crap shoot. Theres no toxic chemicals on that. The US doesnt give a sh!t about that. Theyre doing it for 3 reasons.

1. Relations with foreign countries (dont want our big hunk of metal crushing a small town)
2. Target Practice (Self Explanitory)
3. Spy Satellite (A.K.A. Top secret sh!t that the U.S. doesnt want in the hands of say North Korea)
 

BikeGeek

BrewMonkey
Jul 2, 2001
4,424
72
Hershey, PA
You'd be surprised how often they are. From skewing statistics, to using "enhancement" to help identify the target. In fact the general you sat with may have helped fake it.
Obviously I can't go into it as far as a good explanation requires, but the short answer is that it depends on which component of the system is being tested. The media is quick to point out all the "help" a successful test had, but they rarely understand exactly what the test was meant to accomplish. There's a lot more to it than a missile hitting a target.

At the same time, DoD always tries to make every test look like a complete success, even when the success was planned and ensured through things like GPS and programed trajectories.

The bottom line is that they are both (media and DoD) at fault. I only like to point out that successful intercepts are happening without help because there are some brilliant people whom I know and have worked with behind this stuff and I feel they deserve some credit for this crazy, sci-fi stuff they've dreamed up because it actually works.

As far as the "games" being played with bogus test results and poor reporting, it's all just politics and only one of the reasons I'm no longer working in the defense machine.
 

Wumpus

makes avatars better
Dec 25, 2003
8,163
154
Six Shooter Junction
My point about Atlantis is that they are sending shuttles up. Hasn't this sat been dead for more than a year? They should've planned a repair and fixed it at their leisure.

There is a good chance that they aren't in compatible orbits. The space station and shuttle hang out in low earth orbit, and I would imagine the satellite in question is in a higher orbit.