U.S. Navy Intercepts Missile 100 Miles Over the Pacific

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When you stop to think about it, this bit of news kinda makes last year’s surface-to-satellite shoot-down sound a little… pedestrian. It’s been announced that the U.S. Navy successfully intercepted a short-range ballistic missile 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean.

A ship basically destroyed a missile, in space.

At an altitude of 100 miles.

Wow.

Details are a little sketchy, but the event took place on July 30th and the Navy weapon of choice was a Standard Missile-3 block 1A missile — a similar missile was used during the February 2008 satellite intercept — fired from the USS Hopper. The dummy target ballistic missile was fired from the Hawaiian island of Kauai and it was tracked by the Hopper and USS O’Kane (both destroyers) and consequently shot down.

This marks the 19th successful intercept (out of 23) of high-altitude targets (including the Feb. 2008 spy satellite shoot-down) for the U.S. military’s Aegis Missile Defense system.

To be honest, I was totally floored when I heard the U.S. military had the capability to shoot down a satellite at an altitude of about 130 miles, but to pick out an even smaller target at a comparable altitude is amazing (although the satellite, travelling at 17,000 mph, might have been going faster than a speeding ballistic missile… I might be wrong).

So it looks like the U.S. military is pretty good at taking out ballistic threats after all…

North Korea? Come on, what’s the point?

Source: Space.com

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13 thoughts on “U.S. Navy Intercepts Missile 100 Miles Over the Pacific”

    1. I wonder if 100 miles is too low for orbital debris? I doubt the missile was travelling at orbital speeds… probably just an expensive firework that scattered over the Pacific…

      1. Yeah, that would depend on how fast the target was going and in what kind of trajectory. Still, when the Chinese made a similar test a few years ago, taking down an actual satellite, they generated a huge cloud of debris that is still partially up there. It's very possible that this test also generated debris, even if at 100 miles its half life would be relatively small.Whatever the case may be, though, I really don't like the way the space junk problem tends to be put aside by most people. Everyone seems to have something to put or do in orbit, without much thought to that kind of consequence.

  1. Would it be correct to say “shoot down a satellite”? I mean, if you hit it and it exploded, most of it would stay in some type of orbit – right? Well, some would clearly come down, but some would not.

    1. I think most of the debris will eventually come down – some might take a couple of years. I'd have to check. There is a small amount of drag in those altitudes, so they will eventually re-enter… but the bigger debris will hang around for longer.

    1. Although there's no precedent, assume only one missile will be fired from a rogue state (unless we really annoy China… or Russia), so a 83% success rate are odds I'd bet on ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Well, the satellite could have been on a geosynchronized orbit and thus would have been essentially “not moving” or something similar to that, thus your assumption of the satellite traveling at 17,000 miles per hour would be way off.

    1. The geosynchronous satellites are at a far, far greater altitude than 100 miles. This one was most definitely not one of those.

  3. Well, the satellite could have been on a geosynchronized orbit and thus would have been essentially “not moving” or something similar to that, thus your assumption of the satellite traveling at 17,000 miles per hour would be way off.

  4. The geosynchronous satellites are at a far, far greater altitude than 100 miles. This one was most definitely not one of those.

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