The Pentagon says the window of opportunity is now open to shoot down failing spy satellite.
Successful intercept of ballistic missile target by Aegis SM-3 missile
A Navy heat-seeking missile is getting its first real-world use in an attempt to demolish a crippled U.S. spy satellite before the orbiting craft falls back to Earth.
The targeting of the satellite – which could come Wednesday night – is not the mission for which this piece of the Pentagon’s missile defense network was intended, however.
The attempted shootdown, already approved by President Bush out of concern about toxic fuel on board the satellite, is seen by some as blurring the lines between defending against a weapon like a long-range missile and targeting satellites in orbit.
The three-stage Navy missile, designated the SM-3, has chalked up a high rate of success in a series of tests since 2002, in each case targeting a short- or medium-range ballistic missile, never a satellite. A hurry-up program to adapt the missile for this anti-satellite mission was completed in a matter of weeks; Navy officials say the changes will be reversed once this satellite is down.
The government issued notices to aviators and mariners to remain clear of a section of the Pacific Ocean beginning at 10:30 p.m. EST Wednesday, indicating the first window of opportunity to launch an SM-3 missile from a Navy cruiser, the USS Lake Erie, in an effort to hit the wayward satellite.
The world will be watching this display of American technological strength. The Atlantis space shuttle has just landed in Florida and now the United States will demonstrate its anti-ballistic missile program.
And, the United States, if successful tonight, will achieve a win-win. One it will silence Democrat Congressional critics of the Missile Defense Agency and send a message to China and Russia that exisiting American anti-ballistic forces can be easily modified to be used as an anti-satellite weapon in times of warfare.