Feb 15, International Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON: The military will attempt to shoot down a crippled spy satellite some time in the next two weeks, senior officials said on Thursday, laying out a high-tech plan to intercept the large spacecraft over the Pacific Ocean just before it tumbles uncontrollably back to earth with toxic fuel aboard.

Only twice in history has any nation shot an actual satellite down: China did it last year, and the United States more than 20 years ago.

President George W. Bush ordered the action to prevent any possible contamination from that hazardous rocket fuel on board, and not out of any concern that parts of the spacecraft might survive and its secrets be revealed, officials said. The challenging mission to demolish it instead on the fringes of space will rely on an unforeseen use of ship-based weapons developed to defend against ballistic missile attacks. That makes it a real-world test both of the nation's antiballistic missile systems and its antisatellite capabilities, even though the Pentagon said that they were not using the exercise to test their most exotic weapons or send a message to any adversaries.

The three-ship convoy assigned the task will stalk the satellite's orbital path across the northern Pacific Ocean, tracking the satellite as it circles the globe 16 times a day.

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