Satellite Shootdown Going Forward:

The Pentagon has chosen to proceed with plans to shoot down an “uncontrollable” classified US intelligence satellite that is reentering Earth’s atmosphere at the end of the month, using an element of the ballistic missile defense network, senior officials confirmed at the Pentagon Thursday. Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that some 2,500 pounds of satellite mass might survive reentry and would include about 1,000 pounds of the propellant hydrazine, a hazardous material. While the chances of impact in a populated area are low, President Bush has elected to take action to mitigate the potential risk if it impacts near a populated area, said James Jeffrey, the deputy national security advisor. Talks with other space agencies and countries have been ongoing since January regarding the satellite and potential action against it, he added. The Pentagon has elected to use a Navy Standard Missile 3 anti-missile interceptor and believes that the window of opportunity will be only a few days. The goal is to hit the satellite at about 130 nautical miles away from the Earth. Navy personnel have been reprogramming the SM-3’s software so that it will be able to better target a disintegrating satellite, which has a different and far more erratic trajectory than an aerodynamic ballistic missile. There will be one missile primed for the attempt with two backups, and three ships will be on station for the operation, Cartwright said. The area of operation is not yet set, but the Navy will deploy the ships to a location somewhere in the northern hemisphere in the Pacific Ocean, he said. (DOD release)