The U.S. Navy successfully blasted a wayward satellite with a heat-seeking missile over the Pacific Ocean Wednesday evening, defense officials announced in a press release. A missile launched from a Navy ship struck a dying U.S. spy satellite passing 130 miles over the Pacific on Wednesday.
The satellite USA-193, also known as NROL-21, was launched into orbit Dec. 14, 2006. Shortly after it reached orbit, ground controllers lost contact with it. Though the satellite’s objective is secret, many figure it is a high-resolution radar satellite intended to produce images for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).
The Pentagon submitted orders to shoot down the spacecraft because they said its fuel tank could survive atmospheric reentry and spew 1,000 pounds (454 kilograms) of toxic hydrazine gas over an area about the size of two football fields. The initial view of missile strike indicates it probably did hit the spacecraft’s fuel tank, a defense official said, but whether or not the threat was completely eliminated is unknown at this time.
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