“Amateur satellite watcher Ted Molczan notes that a “Notice to Airmen” (NOTAM) has been issued announcing restricted airspace for February 21, between 02:30 and 05:00 UTC, in a region near Hawaii. Stricken satellite USA 193, which the US has announced plans to shoot down, will pass over this area at about 03:30. Interestingly, this is during the totality of Wednesday’s lunar eclipse, which may or may not make debris easier to observe.”
** Memo to the bloke with his finger on the trigger, from a concerned West Australian: Please, be careful this time; we’re still getting over that whole Skylab thing.
For some Skylab nostalgia, see the June 23, 1979 issue of Time Magazine, Skylab’s Spectacular Death.
And if you’re planning on hosting a Falling Satellite Party (dress code: hard hats), add this song to your playlist: “The Ballad of a Balladonia Night” – a cheerful song to commemorate the fall of Skylab by the famous Australian Christian singing group Family.
UPDATE: Another worried blogger wonders, “Will a Spy Satellite Fall on My Head? Will My Insurance Policy Cover This?” I suggest he ask the good people of the Balladonia, Kalgoorlie and Esperance.
UPDATE: 21 February — It worked.
WASHINGTON — A missile launched from a Navy ship successfully struck a dying U.S. spy satellite passing 130 miles over the Pacific on Wednesday, a defense official said.
It happened just after 10:30 p.m. EST.
The USS Lake Erie, armed with an SM-3 missile designed to knock down incoming missiles — not orbiting satellites — launched the attack at 10:26 p.m. EST, according to the Pentagon. It hit the satellite as the spacecraft traveled at more than 17,000 mph.
Because the satellite was orbiting at a relatively low altitude at the time it was hit by the missile, debris will begin to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere immediately, the Pentagon statement said.
“Nearly all of the debris will burn up on re-entry within 24-48 hours and the remaining debris should re-enter within 40 days,” it said.
The use of the Navy missile amounted to an unprecedented use of components of the Pentagon’s missile defense system, designed to shoot down hostile ballistic missiles in flight — not kill satellites.
The operation was so extraordinary, with such intense international publicity and political ramifications, that Defense Secretary Robert Gates — not a military commander — was to make the final decision to pull the trigger.
The government organized hazardous materials teams, under the code name “Burnt Frost,” to be flown to the site of any dangerous or otherwise sensitive debris that might land in the United States or elsewhere.
UPDATE #3: Western Australia Premier Alan Carpenter tells us the satellite’s demise is a “genuine issue” for the state.