Two big things will/may happen in space Wednesday. A total lunar eclipse visible over much of the United States that evening, and a possible attempt by the NAVY to shoot down the defunct spy satellite USA193.
“Lacrosse” radar spy satellite, the “old” model that USA193 was to replace.
The “new” but failed USA193 satellite may look similar to this commercial radarsat2
On February 14th, the US military announced that they have plans to shoot the USA193 satellite down with a missile, “to reduce the danger to human beings”. This gives a new twist to the story.
Official sources say there is about 450 kg of hydrazine fuel (a very toxic rocket fuel) on board, and expect 1100 kg (about one ton) of debris of the satellite itself might reach earth’s surface intact.
From Wikipedia: Hydrazine is highly toxic and dangerously unstable, especially in the anhydrous form. Symptoms of acute exposure to high levels of hydrazine in humans may include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, dizziness, headache, nausea, pulmonary edema, seizures, coma, and it can also damage the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. The liquid is corrosive and may produce dermatitis from skin contact in humans and animals. Effects to the lungs, liver, spleen, and thyroid have been reported in animals chronically exposed to hydrazine via inhalation. Increased incidences of lung, nasal cavity, and liver tumors have been observed in rodents exposed to hydrazine.
The plan is to intercept the satellite using one or more SM-3 intercept missiles fired from naval vessels in the North Pacific. The SM-3 missiles need to be modified for this task as they normally target object at lower altitude on a ballistic trajectory instead of a true orbit.
At left, a launch of an SM-3 from the Navy AEGIS cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) on April 27th, 2007 in first dual missle test of its kind.
On Feb 18th Ted Molczan has drawn attention to a NOTAM, (NOtice To Air Men) issued by the FAA, that might point to a possible ASAT shoot-down attempt on USA-193 on Feb 20th, at 3:30GMT/UTC (Feb 21st by UTC) which would be about 7:30PM Pacific Standard Time Wednesday evening.
Here is the NOTAM:
PHZH HONOLULU CONTROL FACILITY02/062 (A0038/08) – AIRSPACE CARF NR. 90 ON EVELYN STATIONARY RESERVATION WITHINAN AREA BNDD BY 3145N 17012W 2824N 16642W 2352N 16317W 1909N 16129W 1241N 16129W1239N 16532W 1842N 17057W 2031N 17230W 2703N 17206W SFC-UNL. 21 FEB 02:30 2008UNTIL 21 FEB 05:00 2008. CREATED: 18 FEB 12:51 2008
The NOTAM excludes an area just west of Hawaii over which USA 193 will pass near the time above (see below map, showing USA 193’s approximate position at 7:30 PM PST Wednesday evening, Feb 20th (Feb 21st 3:30 UTC):
(click map to enlarge)
This would put the shoot-down right in the middle of the Wednesday lunar eclipse.
If they do attempt it then, they’ll certainly have a lot of eyes, cameras, and telescopes out with the lunar eclipse, so it will either be a spectacular success (with lots of pictures) or a spectacular failure (with lots of pictures).
(h/t) SatTrackCam Leiden