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Nothing but hydrazine: see satellite kill footage

February 21, 2008 |  1:25 pm

USA-193, we hardly knew ye. Per Peter Spiegel's excellent L.A. Times piece this morning, the U.S. Navy's destruction of the rogue satellite last night was a ballistic hit, involving no explosives. With very high confidence that the hydrazine tank apparently at issue was successfully ruptured, we can say at least that this was an impressive technical feat, leaving little in the debris field larger than nectarine-sized Bush-bashing and mircometeoroids of conspiracy theory.

Which isn't to say the Future Imagery Architecture project isn't due for a swift kick. [See update below.] If you're not following Noah Shachtman's Danger Room blog at Wired, do yourself a favor. Shachtman's got what looks like launch-to-impact footage. Well, take a look for yourself:

Also of interest: A simulation from Analytic Graphics that seems to show the satellite was moving in a pole-to-pole orbit. I haven't followed this story that closely: Is that accurate? [No, it was not. See below.] And a history of the ambitious but costly intelligence project that produced the rogue.

Update: In an interview after posting, Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, corrected me on two points: USA-193 was not part of the FIA program. Also, the satellite was not in polar orbit but angled 58.5 degrees to the equator.

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