Thirteen months ago, China used anti-satellite technology to destroy a redundant weather satellite. Now, in an act of tit-for-tat, it has been reported that the U.S. military will use similar technology to destroy a malfunctioning econ (read ‘spy’) satellite.
Of course, the Pentagon are declaring that this proposal is not an act of ‘me-tooism’, but one of concern for people who might come in contact with the satellite’s hydrazine fuel. This rationale, while seemingly sound, is apparently a load of horse patooties. Hydrazine, while toxic, is also highly unstable and unlikely to survive the heat of re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere. Apparently, a human being would need to be exposed to high levels of hydrazine fumes over a long period to be at risk of detrimental health impacts. So, why shoot down the satellite?
It’s been postulated that super-secret data may survive re-entry, but again, this would seem highly unlikely given the nature of computer systems which have been designed not to survive re-entry, but to relay data by telemetric methods. After all, why put sensitive information at risk of being obtained by unfriendly powers by building the purveyor to such a degree that it would survive re-entry? Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Clearly, this wobbly satellite’s inevitable re-entry due to a faulty orbit provides a golden opportunity for the U.S. to rattle her sabre in response to the Chinese kinetic kill of their own satellite last year. THis approach seems incredibly hypocritical given the loud condemnation which issued forth from the Bush administration thirteen months ago.