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Video of USA193 satellite being shot down
February 21, 2008 9:34 AM   Subscribe

A video has been posted showing the shooting down of satellite USA193 high over the Pacific! posted by 6am (54 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Amazing what you can do with computer animation these days.
posted by jeblis at 9:41 AM on February 21, 2008


That was a weird angle in the video. We were looking way way down on the ship and then way way up at the satellite. Airborne camera?

Anyway, this is final proof to critics that the Star Wars program works. Provided we have 14 months of lead-time for any incoming missile. And no bad weather.
posted by DU at 9:42 AM on February 21, 2008


Oh and Heavens Above rules, though I've never spotted anything they said I should be able to.
posted by DU at 9:43 AM on February 21, 2008


"Nice shooting."

-- Riker, grudgingly, after the Tamarian ship disables but doesn't destroy an Enterprise shuttlecraft trying to effect a rescue of Picard. (Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Darmok")
posted by Mike D at 9:47 AM on February 21, 2008


Pay close attention, China! Three cheers for the militarization of space!
posted by limon at 9:48 AM on February 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


It blowed up real good!
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:49 AM on February 21, 2008


Alien 1: This satellite is a perfect place to stop and rest before we finish our journey to Earth and replicate ourselves into an attacking army.

Alien 2: What's that outside?

Alien 1: Oh shit! It's a mis--
posted by brain_drain at 9:51 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh man... a brand new satellite image shows the first shot actually MISSED!
posted by Mike D at 9:52 AM on February 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


Wouldn't a spy satellite have a self destruct device? Did USA193 have one that wasn't working?
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:53 AM on February 21, 2008


Beautiful explosion..hopefully directors take note for future sci-fi films.
posted by samsara at 9:53 AM on February 21, 2008


Was that just me, or did that missile have a massive second-stage separation? I would imagine so, since a regular SM-3 doesn't have a ceiling of 140 miles.

And hey, in 5 years the Chinese will have this technology and will be able to shoot down any of our satellites and/or the space shuttle. We'll probably need to spend another few hundred billion to develop anti-anti-satellite missiles.
posted by Avenger at 9:55 AM on February 21, 2008


Very good post.

With how expensive, important and increasingly vulnerable they are, it strikes me as odd that no one's really talking about shooting sats down for purposes other than "it's defective and off course". You'd think we would be shooting down other countries' down all the time, just to, y'know, flex our (big) muscles.
posted by kickback at 9:56 AM on February 21, 2008


Hey! Look what we can do!
posted by chillmost at 10:00 AM on February 21, 2008


it strikes me as odd that no one's really talking about shooting sats down for purposes

Google "asat".

...in 5 years the Chinese will have this technology...

The Chinese did it a year (or was it two?) ago. But I'm thinking shooting down a US asset would be an act of war, so they might prefer to just poison children's toys for a decade or two. Weaken the next generation.
posted by DU at 10:01 AM on February 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


ceribus peribus, i believe shortly after launch they lost all communication with the satellite, so maybe it did have a self destruct, they just couldn't get a dial tone.
posted by kickback at 10:01 AM on February 21, 2008


Can they do that to a Fox News satellite next? While carrying it live on Fox News?
posted by Camofrog at 10:04 AM on February 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


Google "asat".

Nice! Now I just need a failed state and some of those laser pulse rifles
posted by kickback at 10:04 AM on February 21, 2008


Does anyone else think they were much more worried about spy satellite hardware falling into foreign lands than the risk from fuel? Not that there's anything wrong with that...
posted by hupp at 10:25 AM on February 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


Mmmmmh, war pr0n.
posted by signal at 10:39 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's only a model.
posted by brundlefly at 10:40 AM on February 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's been done.
Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe
posted by Floydd at 10:42 AM on February 21, 2008


Shooting down an effectively dead satellite with a known orbit borders on the trivial if you've got a good budget. It's one of those weak points that stay un-attacked because of the political consequences more than any technical difficulty of attack. See also submarine cables.
posted by Skorgu at 10:46 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


This ended well.
posted by Poolio at 10:50 AM on February 21, 2008


I'd lay odds that it wasn't actually USA193 (or NRO L-21) but it was actually a super-powered death ray space station. What we didn't see was the British operative that had just gotten done fighting some cybernetic kung-fu master and had short circuited his robot claw into clamping down on the device that was preventing a radar-lock. (Rumor has it that he uttered the line "get a grip" as he did so) just before welding shut the main control room, thus trapping inside the Franco-Germanic-Chinese billionaire who had financed it's construction.

He then made his way to the escape pod, pausing only long enough to rescue the beautiful lead engineer who had been kidnapped and forced to complete the death ray construction.

The missile hit just as the pod cleared the safe distance. Naturally.

But when the press announces it, it's always a "successful decommission of a reconnaissance satellite with a decaying orbit" or something.
posted by quin at 10:53 AM on February 21, 2008 [5 favorites]


Does anyone else think they were much more worried about spy satellite hardware falling into foreign lands than the risk from fuel? Not that there's anything wrong with that...


That's exactly what I thought. I have found that the US govt. does not always disclose the whole truth when it comes to military matters.
posted by Mister_A at 11:05 AM on February 21, 2008


I prefer the original edit, where the satellite shot first.
posted by The World Famous at 11:06 AM on February 21, 2008 [9 favorites]


When will the high def version of this be available for my blu-ray player?
posted by gagglezoomer at 11:11 AM on February 21, 2008


"Nice shooting."

-- Riker, grudgingly, after the Tamarian ship disables but doesn't destroy an Enterprise shuttlecraft trying to effect a rescue of Picard. (Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Darmok")


Vote for your favorite scifi characters in the Best Cosmic Duo to Destroy a Wayward Spy Satellite poll. Kirk and Spock are currently winning. The bastards. Jayne, vote for Jayne!
posted by Tehanu at 11:23 AM on February 21, 2008


The United States is very good at blowing things up in unimaginably impossible high-tec ways. If you watch this video you will believe that phenomenally practical and remarkably intelligent minds are behind this technological achievement.

In contrast, US foreign (and domestic) policy makes it seem as though kindergarteners are its architects. And members of the US press dutifully mouth the lines they have been given by the six-year-olds.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:27 AM on February 21, 2008


It's my understanding that the satellite had almost an ounce of plutonium on board in the form of small pellets used to generate heat to prevent critical parts of the spacecraft from freezing up and malfunctioning - and my layman's guess is that, long-term, the hazard to life created by an ounce of atomized plutonium entering the upper atmosphere and getting distributed around the world would be greater than the "two to three football-fields" worth of debris field contaminated with hydrazine should the fuel tank have hit the ground intact.

So, yes, my guess is that the greater concern was over foreign access to classified technology than any putative hazard to life.
posted by kcds at 11:36 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


In contrast, US foreign (and domestic) policy makes it seem as though kindergarteners are its architects. And members of the US press dutifully mouth the lines they have been given by the six-year-olds.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 2:27 PM on February 21


The reason for this is simple. The military and high-tech defense contractors are staffed with people who dedicate their education and careers to building impossible things that make other things go boom.

By contrast, anyone who can pass the foreign service exam can work at the state department. And idiots can be elected president.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:38 AM on February 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's my understanding that the satellite had almost an ounce of plutonium on board in the form of small pellets used to generate heat to prevent critical parts of the spacecraft from freezing up and malfunctioning - and my layman's guess is that, long-term, the hazard to life created by an ounce of atomized plutonium entering the upper atmosphere and getting distributed around the world would be greater than the "two to three football-fields" worth of debris field contaminated with hydrazine should the fuel tank have hit the ground intact.

Yeah, this is a classic example of 'penny wise, pound foolish'. The idea that it's better to spread that shit through upper atmosphere than to let tech possibly fall into someone else's hands is asinine.

"Spy satellites for us, cancer for everyone!"
posted by unixrat at 11:45 AM on February 21, 2008


See, Star Wars works after all! Now let's get to building those silos in Poland...
posted by casarkos at 11:51 AM on February 21, 2008


And idiots an idiot can be elected is president.

FTFY
posted by HuronBob at 11:53 AM on February 21, 2008


I made a wish on it.
posted by Pecinpah at 11:59 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here's an ostensible cameraphone video of NROL-21's launch from VAFB. Now you've seen the beginning and the end.
posted by brownpau at 12:03 PM on February 21, 2008


It did have a self destruct device. A 140 mile fall.

I'd be more worried about that plutonium hitting the ground in a 2-3 football fields area than the hydrazine. I question this, though, because I though heat disposal was the big issue in the sunny climes of Earth orbit and that they didn't break out the plutonium until Jupiter or Saturn.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:20 PM on February 21, 2008


Boom! heh heh heh heh
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:29 PM on February 21, 2008


There's really very little reason to use radioactive thermal generator energy sources in low earth orbit rather than solar power, and since that's the only plutonium dependant power plant that is known to be actively used, I doubt this satellite had anything.
posted by Catfry at 1:10 PM on February 21, 2008


Apparently RTG stands for radioisotope thermoelectric generator so substitute above.
posted by Catfry at 1:12 PM on February 21, 2008


Yea . . . it's really easy to shoot down satellites now. Wait until they start firing back.
posted by socalsamba at 1:16 PM on February 21, 2008


My perspective on this is that this was more a question of

a) the missile defense folks getting the chance to score another successful though completely unrealistic kill (with a tonne of media attention, more than a typical missile defense test), on which they can establish a secondary institutional mission ("planetary defense"), and thus position themselves better to lobby the next administration; and

b) the Bush Administration (and really the U.S. military and any American presidency) never running from the chance to make a spectacle out of blowing something up; with a little bit of

c) answer the Chinese ASAT test.

I don't think the tiny risk that carbonized but still-classified technology would fall into the wrong hands factored into the decision. Certainly the risk that someone on the ground would get hurt was nothing but pretext.
posted by kowalski at 1:18 PM on February 21, 2008


Boom! heh heh heh heh

I didn't need to read the "posted by" to know this was you, TLF. I actually heard it in your voice.
posted by brundlefly at 1:51 PM on February 21, 2008


The real reason the satellite got shot down... Let's just say "snitches get stitches."
posted by drezdn at 2:03 PM on February 21, 2008


The voices...in my head...they suddenly stopped. So lonely.
posted by Atreides at 2:08 PM on February 21, 2008 [6 favorites]


The quality of the footage looks like it's circa 1946.

Is that a V2?
posted by mattoxic at 2:12 PM on February 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oo, I'd be chuffed if someone could explain to me why there was an explosion in an ostensibly oxygen-free vaccum! Does it have something to do with the atmosphere being close by, or the liquid oxygen fuel or something? Just groping in the dark here.
posted by adricv at 2:30 PM on February 21, 2008


The quality of the footage looks like it's circa 1946.

It's probably reconnaissance FLIR.

Wouldn't a spy satellite have a self destruct device? Did USA193 have one that wasn't working?

Normally they de-orbit them into the Pacific using all that hydrazine propellant they go up with. In this case, they had lost communication almost from the beginning.

Does anyone else think they were much more worried about spy satellite hardware falling into foreign lands

I think this is only slightly more plausible than the hydrazine story. I think it simply provided a perfect example in the wake of the Chinese ASAT last year. Also, it was probably timed to spike the McCain story in the NYT.

It's my understanding that the satellite had almost an ounce of plutonium on board in the form of small pellets used to generate heat to prevent critical parts of the spacecraft from freezing up and malfunctioning - and my layman's guess is that, long-term, the hazard to life created by an ounce of atomized plutonium entering the upper atmosphere and getting distributed around the world would be greater than the "two to three football-fields" worth of debris field contaminated with hydrazine should the fuel tank have hit the ground intact.

It's possible it had an RTG heater on board, but not everyone agrees that it's necessary. In any case, those plutonium pellets are encased in a pretty solid chunk of inert metal that is designed to survive re-entry and then some. That said, they don't always. But keep in mind that there are satellites coming down practically every week. If it's immoral to shoot it down, it's probably immoral to put it up there in the first place.

explain to me why there was an explosion in an ostensibly oxygen-free vaccum

Because explosion is not necessarily the same thing as fire. If you provide your own combustibles you do not need a surrounding atmosphere.
posted by dhartung at 3:00 PM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


there was a lot of discussion about this last night on the radio, given that the local coastguard was warned about potential "falling debris"

i think the fuel concern is quite low on the motivation scale. ultimately, i think it's about either 1) not wanting technology or data to fall into anyone elses hands (which is dubious, considering it's a 30y.o satellite) or more importantly, 2) proving that they can, in fact, shoot down a satellite.

it's interesting that someone brought up the underwater cables, between taking down satellites and cutting undersea cables a country could shut down all communication with the outside world.

to be honest, i think this is just about them proving that they can. satellites are phenomenally expensive and difficult to launch, having the technology to destroy them was an obvious step.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 3:23 PM on February 21, 2008


> Alien 1: This satellite is a perfect place to stop and rest before we finish our journey to Earth
> and replicate ourselves into an attacking army.
>
> Alien 2: What's that outside?
>
> Alien 1: Oh shit! It's a mis--

Oh dear, now I shall have to create more Martians.
posted by jfuller at 4:56 PM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


adric hydrazine decomposes exothermally under the presence of a catalyst, no O2 required. I'm sure getting hit by a kinetic kill vehicle would tend to disperse the catalyst nicely.
posted by Skorgu at 7:19 PM on February 21, 2008


...if someone could explain to me why there was an explosion in an ostensibly oxygen-free vaccum

There may have been little or no "explosion". The "kill vehicle" carried no explosive material. The satellite was destroyed by collision at roughtly 25,000 mph (most of that velocity belonged to the satellite). What looked like an explosion was probably just an expanding debris cloud reflecting sunlight. Yeah, there may have been some hydrazine action, too.

Loosely related: amateur rocket enthusiasts have been grapling with the ATF for years on the definition of "explosion". Rocketeers use a solid fuel called ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP) which, if you can get it to light, burns kinda like a road flare. The ATF calls it an explosive and require users to get an explosives permit. A pending lawsuit will likely overturn this ATF rule.
posted by neuron at 8:39 PM on February 21, 2008


i think the fuel concern is quite low on the motivation scale. ultimately, i think it's about either 1) not wanting technology or data to fall into anyone elses hands (which is dubious, considering it's a 30y.o satellite)

USA 193 was not 30 years old.
posted by moonbiter at 11:03 PM on February 21, 2008


"Mr. President, we cannot afford an anti-anti-satellite missile gap!!"
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:55 AM on February 22, 2008


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