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U.S. missile from Aegis warship downs satellite

Thursday, February 21, 2008 Free Headline Alerts

The Pentagon announced Wednesday evening that a "network of land-, air-, sea- and spaced-based sensors" had confirmed that the U.S. had successfully intercepted a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite which was about to entering the earth's atmosphere.

"At approximately 10:26 p.m. EST today, a U.S. Navy AEGIS warship, the USS Lake Erie (CG-70), fired a single modified tactical Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) hitting the satellite approximately 247 kilometers (133 nautical miles) over the Pacific Ocean as it traveled in space at more than 17,000 mph" the Department of Defense statement said.

"The objective was to rupture the fuel tank to dissipate the approximately 1,000 pounds (453 kg) of hydrazine, a hazardous fuel which could pose a danger to people on earth, before it entered into earth's atmosphere." Confirmation that the fuel tank has been successfully destroyed was expected within 24 hours.

"Due to the relatively low altitude of the satellite at the time of the engagement, debris will begin to re-enter the earth's atmosphere immediately," the statement said. "Nearly all of the debris will burn up on reentry within 24-48 hours and the remaining debris should re-enter within 40 days."

Earlier this week, China warned against threats to security in outer space, without mentioning its own successful anti-satellite missile test last year.

The Chinese government also stopped short of linking U.S. plans to down the satellite with Beijing's repeated calls for a complete ban on space weapons.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said the Chinese government was highly concerned about the U.S. plan, Xinhua, the state-run news agency, reported late Sunday, noting that the target satellite was loaded with toxic fuel.

Liu also urged Washington to fulfill its international obligations and avoid threatening security in space and that of other countries, Xinhua quoted him as saying, without elaborating.

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