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Pentagon declares satellite shootdown a success
February 25, 2008 / 5:39 PM / 10 years ago

Pentagon declares satellite shootdown a success

<p>The USS Lake Erie launches a Standard Missile-3 at a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite as it traveled in space at more than 17,000 mph over the Pacific Ocean, February 20, 2008. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout</p>

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon declared on Monday that its mission to blast apart a defunct spy satellite with a missile fired from a Navy warship had been a success.

The strike took place 247 km (153.5 miles) above the Pacific Ocean last Wednesday as the satellite sped through space at more than 17,000 mph (27,000 kph), according to U.S. officials.

“By all accounts this was a successful mission,” Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement.

Cartwright said analysis of debris supported the initial conclusion that the missile had most probably destroyed the satellite’s tank of hazardous hydrazine fuel as intended.

<p>The USS Lake Erie launches a Standard Missile-3 at a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite as it traveled in space at more than 17,000 mph over the Pacific Ocean February 20, 2008. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout</p>

“From the debris analysis, we have a high degree of confidence the satellite’s fuel tank was destroyed and the hydrazine has been dissipated,” he said.

Experts were tracking less than 3,000 pieces of debris, all smaller than a football. “The vast majority of debris has already reentered or will shortly reenter the Earth’s atmosphere in the coming days and weeks,” Cartwright said.

“To date, there have been no reports of debris landing on Earth and it is unlikely any will remain intact to impact the ground.”

The operation was the first time a sea-based missile has been used to hit a satellite, according to experts. The United States and the Soviet Union conducted anti-satellite tests in the Cold War but used other techniques.

Both Russia and China had expressed concern ahead of the mission.

Editing by David Storey

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