I guess I’ll weigh in on the issue of the plan to shoot down a failed satellite before it re-enters the atmosphere. I’ve got to admit I’m not really sure why some folks are getting so worked up about it. So much hand-wringing in the press and on the blogs. I just don’t get it.

I think it’s a decent opportunity to try something, to push the envelope, with new technology. It appears that the risk of new danger from a failed test is minimal, and that the upside of a success could be nice.

In any event, we will learn more about our anti-missile system and its capabilities, hopefully improving the chances of success should the system be called on to perform its mission in the future.

I predict that if the shoot-down fails, there will be a lot of laughing at the military and the missile defense system. And some folks are certain to whine about the expense. Just think how many schools we could build with all that money, and such.

Finally, it’s fairly ironic that the Rooskies and Chinese claim that this effort will be “the first step in a new, space-based phase of the arms race.” Nice.

Here’s a decent response:

The missile’s make, the general location of the launch vehicle and the target are all known — because the U.S. government has publicly stated these facts. Still, the Chinese and Russian governments are raising a fuss.

Contrast this operation with one that took place in January of last year, when Beijing surprised the world by shooting down one of its own weather satellites in a test of its antisatellite capabilities. Not only was the test unannounced, but it took China days to concede that it had happened. Because the satellite was destroyed at an altitude of approximately 850 kilometers, it left countless hazardous particles drifting in orbit that could harm future space flights.

I guess you could summarize that response to “shut up, jerks,” but the supporting details are always nice.

UPDATE: Of course, if dangerous materials blanket the planet and turn 98% of the world’s population into flesh-eating zombies, I’ll post a retraction.


  1. Have you been reading Danger Room blog? Noah Schachtman is throwing a fit over the shoot-down. What can go wrong? If it spurts atrazine all over the planet, well, it’s a pretty big planet. And atrazine turns into plain old ammonia on contact with water/water vapor. Heck, I use Mr. Clean with ammonia quite often. Not that scary.

  2. Hydrazine is the fuel it carries. About 1000 lbs. of the stuff. Normally you’d expect the tank to rupture on reentry, but it may be shielded such that the tank remains largely intact until it impacts the earth. In that case 1000 lbs of the stuff could be pretty nasty in a populated area. I’ve seen the remains of tanks that survived other reentries, such as Skylab’s composite tanks, which are on display at the Huntsville, AL Space and Rocket Center.

  3. I seem to recall reading over at Defense Tech or some such place that the altitude of the satellite intercept is much higher than the previously stated capability of the standard SAM interceptor. Could this be a way of telling the rest of the world, especially the Chinese after their satellite shoot-down that we can play that game too?

  4. Dude! Atrazine is a defoliant you spray on all things green that you don’t want growing on your property (and is completely safe for pets and humans BTW. LOL!). How do I know…………used it irresponsibly at one time or another! This whole we need to shoot down the satellite because it’s big and could install a swimming pool hole where we don’t want any, and has Haz Mat fuel on board and might degrade your hamsters God given way of life thing, is a load of BS. I think it’s got a lot more to do with being a prime opportunity to test classified SM3 hardware and software upgrades, show those uppity Russkis and Chinese we A: Can do it! and B: Can do it better than them. Assuming it works OK and isn’t a total embarressment as already noted.

  5. Don’t forget, there’s a lunar eclipse tonight. It will only be a partial eclipse for folks on the West coast, but total for most of the US. Maybe those of you near the Pacific can get an augmented light show tonight when the missile hits that satellite. No welding goggles required for this kind of eclipse.

  6. The truth has to be…..This shooting down the of the ‘spy satellite’ is just a cover story. In fact one of the alien orbital mind control laser pods has gone out of control. The military in league with our alien overlords, is shooting the pod down to prevent ordinary people from discovering the truth. Otherwise we are left with a nonsensical thought of the Navy wanting a real life test of a theoretical capability and the failing satellite is the perfect opportunity.

  7. There’s nothing wrong with showing the world you still carry the biggest stick. Frankly, I wish we’d do that a little more often. Like the next time a Russian bomber flies low over one of our aircraft carriers, ‘oops, sorry we blew their sorry asses out of the sky.’ Acting like a pussy is the best way to get into a fight. It’s not the best way to avoid one.

  8. Hah, a hit! Take that ruskies and chi-coms! I see 2 good reasons for the test anyways 1) To prove we can do it 2) Good chance there are some toys on there the US dosen’t want anyone else looking at.

  9. The three-stage Navy missile used for the mission has chalked up a high rate of success in a series of tests since 2002, in each case targeting a short- or medium-range ballistic missile, never a satellite. Modifications to the missile for the mission were completed in a matter of weeks, and Navy officials said the changes would be reversed once this satellite was down. – Breitbart

    When we need to do things quickly we can. Look at how long we’ve been dragging out this missile defense stuff, yet when we really needed to get this anti-satellite missile done in a hurry it was no problem at all. We have the people. We have the technology. We just need to get the bean counters and bureaucrats out of their way so our technical people – who kick ass, by the way – can do their jobs.