Cautious update – satellite shoot-down reduces risk from hazardous chemical

Not 24 or even 48 hours after the satellite shoot-down by a (ballistic) missile fired from a U.S. Navy ship in the Pacific some 130 miles up into space at a speed of 17,000 miles per hour, but days later, there is a qualified statement of success.

The AP reported that “The Pentagon said Monday it has a ‘high degree of confidence’ that the missile fired at a dead U.S. spy satellite in space destroyed the satellite’s fuel tank as planned. In its most definitive statement yet on the outcome of last Wednesday’s shootdown over the Pacific, the Pentagon said that based on debris analysis it is clear that the Navy missile destroyed the fuel tank, ‘reducing, if not eliminating, the risk to people on Earth from the hazardous chemical’. The tank had 1,000 pounds of hydrazine, a toxic substance that U.S. government officials believed posed a potential health hazard to humans if the satellite had descended to Earth on its own. The presence of the hydrazine was cited by U.S. officials as the main reason to shoot down the satellite — described as the size of a school bus — which would otherwise have fallen out of orbit on its own in early March … ‘By all accounts this was a successful mission’, Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in the Pentagon statement Monday. ‘From the debris analysis, we have a high degree of confidence the satellite’s fuel tank was destroyed and the hydrazine has been dissipated’. The Pentagon statement said a space operations center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., is tracking fewer than 3,000 pieces of satellite debris, all smaller than a football”. This AP report is published here.

There has still been no reaction from Russia.