From NY Times
WASHINGTON — The order by President Bush for the Navy to launch an antimissile interceptor to destroy a disabled satellite before it falls from orbit carries opportunity, but also potential embarrassment, for the administration and advocates of its missile defense program.
The decision was described by senior officials as designed solely to protect populated areas from space debris, and not to showcase how the emerging missile defense arsenal could be reprogrammed to counter an unexpected threat: in this case hazardous rocket fuel aboard the dead satellite.
Even so, the attempt, expected within the next two weeks, will again throw into sharp relief the administration’s antipathy to treaties limiting antisatellite weapons, which puts the United States opposite China and Russia, which just this week proposed a new pact banning space weapons.
Often compared to hitting a bullet with a bullet, the shooting down of ballistic missiles with an interceptor rocket is difficult, as an adversary’s warheads would be launched unexpectedly on relatively short arcs — and most likely more than one at a time.
So it should be easier for the Standard Missile 3, a Navy weapon launched from an Aegis cruiser in the northern Pacific, to find and strike a satellite almost the size of a school bus making orbits almost as regular as bus routes around the globe, 16 times a day.
Should it succeed, the accomplishment would embolden those who champion even more spending on top of the $57.8 billion appropriated by Congress for missile defenses since the Bush administration’s first budget in the 2002 fiscal year...
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's Defence Ministry said on Saturday a U.S. plan to shoot down an ailing spy satellite could be used as a cover to test a new space weapon.
The ministry said there was insufficient proof that Washington's decision to fire a missile at the disabled satellite was to prevent a potentially deadly leak of toxic gas as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere.
"In our opinion, the decision to destroy the U.S. satellite is not as harmless as it is being presented. Especially as the United States has been avoiding talks on restricting a space arms race for quite a long time," the ministry's information department said in a statement.
"Under cover of discussions about the danger posed by the satellite, preparation is going ahead for tests of an anti-satellite weapon. Such tests mean in essence the creation of a new strategic weapon."
U.S. officials said on Thursday that President George W. Bush had decided to have the Navy shoot the 5,000-pound (2,270 kg) satellite with a modified tactical missile after security advisers suggested its re-entry could lead to a loss of life.