Thursday, February 21, 2008

Details of satellite destruction revealed; fragments have begun to reenter

At a news conference at 12:05 UTC the DoD showed a short video of the actual intercept: You see an explosion, an expanding vapor cloud and a field of many small fragments. Many of those fragments have already reentered, none of them "larger than a football", and there are no reports that anything has reached the ground. Since the interceptor rocket carried no warhead, the explosion and vapor cloud are strong evidence that the hydrazine tank was breached and thus the (official) primary task of the operation fulfilled. It will take another 24 to 48 hours, however, to be really certain about that. One surprise for the military: that all fragments seen so far are so small.

There are photos from Hawaii that may show the hydrazine trail in the sky and perhaps also the debris field (technical data and hi-res). Only hours after the operation a report from Canada spoke of "many debris trails" seen during the lunar eclipse that seem to be related to USA 193's remnants. The pattern would indicate that "the fragments have spread far and wide". Some dramatic DoD pictures of how the operation played out on the ground are also available.

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