A U.S. Spy Satellite has lost power and is heading toward earth. The huge satellite, possibly carrying hazardous materials, can’t be controlled, and where it hits on Earth is anybody’s guess. The facts concerning how and when it lost power is not known because the information is classified. According to a spokesman for the National Security Council, government agencies are supervising the situation.
The spokesman also said that other satellites have fallen and caused no harm. When asked about the possibility of shooting it down with a missile, he said it wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss it at the time.
The satellite is carrying hydrazine, a rocket fuel which is toxic and a danger to anyone who comes in contact with it. Other nations are being notified of the situation and some have expressed doubts as to the legitimacy of the situation. In other words, they don’t believe this was an accident and that the US could be using it to test its weapons.
John Pike, a defense and intelligence expert, said that an uncontrolled entry such as this could expose U.S. secrets and that spy satellites are usually directed toward the ocean to avoid anyone trying to access it. He also said that shooting it down with a missile would only create debris.
Pike estimated the weight of the satellite to be approximately 20,000 pounds and the size is similar to that of a small bus, which would create ten times less debris than the Columbian space shuttle that crashed in 2003.
According to Jeffrey Richelson with the National Security Archive, the satellite is probably a photo reconnaissance craft, used to gather information about adversarial governments and terrorist organizations, along with structures at alleged nuclear sites/miliary training camps. The craft could also survey disaster-ravaged areas.
In 1979, the NASA satellite, Skylab, a 78 ton space station, left its orbit and fell without incident into the Indian ocean. NASA directed a re-entry of the 17-ton Compton Gamma Ray Observatory in 2000 with onboard rockets, bringing it down into the Pacific Ocean. A 7,000 pound science satellite plunged into the atmosphere in 2002, scattering debris across the Persian Gulf thousands of miles from where it was predicted.
Therefore, space stations have fallen out of orbit and plummeted to the earth before without mishap, but the focus on this one seems to be the rocket fuel. It isn’t predicted to hit the earth until late February or early March. Authorities are monitoring the situation carefully.