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« Did JFK leave a ‘love child’? | Main | Who are these superdelegates? »

February 15, 2008



I wouldn't call it a conspiracy theory but I have my own unsupported suspicions about this satellite. I'm wondering if they are concerned about a less-than-friendly nation obtaining the satellite remains and reverse engineering it.

This is a very new satellite that went haywire. It undoubtedly is very high tech. So much so that they probably want to keep the technology under wraps. Destroying the satellite achieves this and also allows testing some other defense technology. It is the proverbial silver lining to the failed satellite cloud.

But here's a question: is shooting down an inbound satellite with an SM-3 really a demonstration of anti-satellite technology? The satellite is not in a regular orbit but rather falling into the upper atmosphere. Shooting it down would be impressive but I'm not sure it means we have great anti-satellite technology. Can an SM-3 even reach a satellite in a regular orbit?

Frank Warner

Good points. I don't think we'd want a spy satellite landing in China. Even after it blows up, there will be parts that can be pieced together. Most of them probably say, "Made in China," but we have a few unique parts of our own.


I can't find it now but I think I read somewhere that this satellite was half made by Japan.

jj mollo

It's still a great opportunity to do some testing without having to explain ourselves. I don't think this thing is a real danger. The odds are against it landing on anything important. The real challenge here is the gamesmanship. Do we want our adversaries to know just how good our intercept capability is? Maybe we miss the thing on purpose. Maybe we want to lead somebody down a technology dead-end? Or maybe we just want to impress everyone? Maybe the thing is already wired for self destruct. If we get a launch within a few dozen clicks of the thing, we could just blow it up and pretend that we hit it.

As to keeping secrets, it's really hard to guarantee that. It all depends on where it comes down. You might remember, with the Columbia, how we collected all the pieces to reconstruct the cause of the disaster. Chinese could do that if it lands over there. A more amazing reconstruction came from the Genesis solar particle collection lander a few years ago which crashed in the desert. NASA actually used all the pieces to complete the original experiment!

Frank Warner

Well, that's another good reason to blow this thing to smithereens.

I guess we won't be able to see it on the East Coast.


"Maybe the thing is already wired for self destruct."

Heh. That actually sounds plausible.

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