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Watch out for falling satellites Answered

Watch out for falling satellites
With no one at the wheel, should we be worried about the large US spy satellite now headed for a crash landing?

US spy satellite 193 is predicted to de-orbit less than gracefully in Feburary or early March. The chances of it actually hitting a populated area are exceedingly small, but perhaps you can catch a few micrograms of it using Kiteman's How to catch a star Instructable.

What is happening?

An out-of-control US spy satellite will crash to Earth in the coming months, government officials say. The satellite is large enough that remnants are likely to survive atmospheric re-entry and strike the Earth, sometime in late February or early March, says Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

Is that normal?

"This is relatively routine in that satellites de-orbit all the time," says Johndroe. Pieces of uncontrolled debris heavier than two tonnes -- mostly discarded rocket stages -- crash to Earth as often as once every three weeks, says Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and launch observer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Many discarded pieces retain some power, so that controllers on Earth can guide them to a point far from human habitation, usually using a final dive into an ocean. In 2001, Russian space officials broke up the old Mir space station in this way over the South Pacific. That's not the case for this US one, however.

"Obviously, we want to take a look at the potential for it to land in a populated area," says Johndroe.

What are the chances of it crashing through my roof?

Exceedingly slim, says McDowell. Remember that some 70% of the Earth is water, and most lands are void of people. "There is no reason for people to get alarmed about it," he says.

According to the NASA Orbital Debris Program Office, there have been no confirmed instances of serious property damage or injury caused by crashing debris in 40 years.

28 Replies

user
chooseausername (author)2008-02-24

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that the successful shoot-down of a rogue US spy satellite demonstrated that America's missile defense system works.

http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5gXfTZB0a8NU_H4vSMdlS6YxBeTow

So, finally, seems it was a real military demonstration.
If it has failed, they would have maintained their "it's an attempt to destroy a dangerous rogue satellite full of toxic fuel" (we want to protect your life people of the world).
And as it's a full success, they shamelessly recognize it was a test for the defense system .... =oP

In this new military race, USA is number two this time.
China won the first place !
Who will try for the third place ? Russia ? Japan ? NK ? =o)

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user
chooseausername (author)2008-02-21

It's done ! They think (they're not really sure yet) they successfully destroyed the satellite ! Hooray !! (it's not yet a 100% hooray though) What's funny, it's that China is very worried and want USA gives to the world every informations to be sure the satellite debris are not threat for the for the security of space etc ... Actually, they're doing the same thing USA did to them when, few months ago, it was China who destroyed a weather satellite with a missile ...

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Brennn10 (author)chooseausername2008-02-21

The Navy is to confirm today whether or not the fuel burned up. Also, some people think that this was just a test of the Navy's missile program to target foreign spy satellites.

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chooseausername (author)Brennn102008-02-21

Also, some people think that this was just a test of the Navy's missile program to target foreign spy satellites.

Maybe it's both ? destroying a dangerous fuel, testing missile program ... oh yes, and destroying classified tech too !

=o)

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user
Goodhart (author)2008-01-29

Well, every year our weatherman panics when the first snow threatens, and everyone buys out the store, then no snow comes. But a few missed ones later when things seem calmer, and we get a big one, than no one is prepared for it. "Plan for the worst, expect the best, and be prepared to be surprised." :-)

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killerjackalope (author)Goodhart2008-02-15

Goodhart you sound like the boy scout who got high...

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user
Goodhart (author)killerjackalope2008-02-16

Hmm, ok I'll bite, I am not sure I know what you mean :-)

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user
killerjackalope (author)Goodhart2008-02-17

"Plan for the worst, expect the best, and be prepared to be surprised."

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user
Goodhart (author)killerjackalope2008-02-17

Well, if you think about it, if you have planned for the worst, expecting the best, normally things fall somewhere in between; however, where-ever they fall, you will not expect is precisely, so you will be surprised, normally pleasantly so if you have really planned for the worst. :-)

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chooseausername (author)2008-02-15

Riddle : It's large like a bus school, full of a very toxic fuel, it's out of control and it may crash on your house and kill an undetermined number of persons. What is it ?

So, according to the TV news, Uncle Sam is planing to nuke the satellite just before it enters into the atmosphere, so it will ... hmm, I mean would, fall strait down somewhere instead of simply falling down somewhere ...

Here is a link to one of the many article about this subject :
http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/us-warship-to-strike-down-spy-satellite/2008/02/15/1202760599888.html

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ewilhelm (author)chooseausername2008-02-15

My read of the article indicates that conventional, not nuclear, weapons will be used to bring down the satellite. Perhaps you meant nuke in a more figurative way? It still won't fall straight down, but I think the plan is to break it up into smaller pieces that will vaporize in the atmosphere. If it remained intact, there's the possibility of it coming down more or less intact and spilling the hydrazine in a populated area.

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chooseausername (author)ewilhelm2008-02-16

My read of the article indicates that conventional, not nuclear, weapons will be used to bring down the satellite. Perhaps you meant nuke in a more figurative way?

It was figurative .... but not totally actually =oP

I'm trying to find an article or something, but I can't remember during which war exactly (Afghanistan, Yugoslavia or Iraq (that was during the last 10 years)), USA was strongly criticized for considering (and using) miniaturized nuclear bombs as "conventional weapons".
So, when Uncle Sam says "standard missile" or "conventional weapons", I generally translate it with prudence .............. =o]

It still won't fall straight down, but I think the plan is to break it up into smaller pieces that will vaporize in the atmosphere. If it remained intact, there's the possibility of it coming down more or less intact and spilling the hydrazine in a populated area.

French journalists probably badly translated the interview !
They understood the plan was mainly to select where and when the debris are going to fall ...
=o)

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Kiteman (author)chooseausername2008-02-16

Here's the BBC article

The US Navy plans to modify a Standard Missile 3 to be launched from an Aegis destroyer - usually part of the US Missile Defense System designed to intercept ballistic missiles.

Standard Missile 3
Missile manufacturer's website (am I the only one who finds a military supplier advertising on the web a little ... disturbing?)

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chooseausername (author)Kiteman2008-02-16

Thanks for your articles and links =o)

So, SM-3 has a "kinetic warhead" (KW) as they say.
I did not find any more info about what is it exactly : does it mean it's nothing more than a giant bullet ? (destruction of the target by kinetic energy) ??

(am I the only one who finds a military supplier advertising on the web a little ... disturbing?)

No .......

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Kiteman (author)chooseausername2008-02-16

...kinetic warhead...

Yep, it's a plain old bullet. Maybe with some steering hardware, but all it does it smack into stuff hard.

Never mind lasers and particle beams and what-not, good old kinetics are the best way to knock out stuff in space, when contact velocities are in the tens of thousands of kph. If they were orbiting in opposite directions, a single blast from a shotgun could destroy the entire ISS.

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Goodhart (author)ewilhelm2008-02-16

That is my understanding of what I have heard about this, also. The smaller pieces should burn up before reaching the ground, rather then the large hunk "invading someone's home" uninvited-like. :-)

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user

bus school == school bus, indeed =o)

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ll.13 (author)2008-01-30

Hey, how about setting up a huge electro-magnet and trying to get it to land here? there's a hill with a few satellite dishes near here...... hmm... :-/

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chooseausername (author)2008-01-30

I hope this spy satellite is not one of the starwars project (ie, full of nuclear heads) ............ =o]

The CNES proposed the idea of a "spatial cemetary" : a farther orbit where every satellites in end of life would be propelled.

Honestly, I'd prefer they have 1% chance to crash on the moon than 0.00001% of chance they crash on my house ... =o/

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Kiteman (author)2008-01-29

Anybody remember the fuss about Skylab coming down?

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Vendigroth (author)Kiteman2008-01-30

Didn't Australia charge the US for littering?

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MD_Willington (author)Kiteman2008-01-29

Yes.. My family actually saw a satellite re-enter years ago over the Pacific, we lived on Vancouver Island in BC Canada, the night sky was very clear, the entire re-entry was awesome.. better than fireworks as the object literally fell into a plethora a individual pieces, wish we had a digi-cam back then...

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bowmaster (author)2008-01-29

I hope it lands in my backyard and is still in good enuff condition for me to salvege parts!!

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Labot2001 (author)bowmaster2008-01-29

either that or sell it on ebay ;]

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Xellers (author)2008-01-29

This is somewhat silly, it's probably going to come down and disintegrate just like most satellites do.

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Brennn10 (author)2008-01-29

Would it pull a Cloverfield and wake up the monster of the deep? One may never know...

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