Critic Assails U.S. ASAT Shot

By | March 3, 2008 | Satellite News Feed

The United States move to shoot down an errant, dysfunctional intelligence satellite was unrealistic, but the successful shot probably will ensure that Congress provides the full requested $1.2 billion for the Aegis sea-based ballistic missile defense program in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, a missile defense critic stated.

Victoria Samson, a research analyst with the Center for Defense Information think tank in Washington, also asserted that the anti-satellite (ASAT) shoot-down cost $100 million.

President Bush ordered the shoot-down because the intel satellite contained a fuel tank filled with 1,000 pounds of toxic hydrazine, fearing the material might crash into a populated area somewhere around the world when the dead satellite reentered the atmosphere and plunged to the ground.

Samson said the shoot-down wasn’t typical for an Aegis ballistic missile operation, something that Pentagon leaders have stated as well.

The system uses the Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] Aegis weapons control and radar system and a Raytheon Co. [RTN] Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor missile.

According to Samson, the shoot-down operation wasn’t representative of a ballistic missile defense shot because the Aegis system and SM-3 were primed to know where to look for the non-functional satellite; it is much larger than a typical enemy missile warhead; the ASAT shot was delayed until seas calmed; software and hardware were changed from the usual missile defense versions; officials waited to take the ASAT shot until the sun came out and warmed up the satellite to make it more visible to the Aegis system, and more.

To view Samson’s paper titled "Shooting down USA-193: A $100 million shot to be followed by even greater political costs" in entirety, please go to

http://www.cdi.org on the Web.

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