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15 Feb, 2008 15:06

U.S. reveals plans to shoot down spy satellite

The U.S. military is planning to shoot down a broken spy satellite from space. The Pentagon says the rocket poses a direct threat to human life, as it contains highly toxic fuel and is expected to hit Earth in early March.

But the move announced by George Bush comes at a sensitive time because of the controversy surrounding China's anti-satellite test last year and Russia’s fear of American weapons use in space. 

China’s test

In January 2007 China carried out a test, which caused international alarm.

The country launched a ground-based medium-range ballistic missile to destroy a weather satellite in space. It was the first known satellite intersept in more than twenty years.

At the time Washington voiced serious concerns that it could trigger an arms race in space.

“We certainly are concerned by any effort by any nation that would be geared toward developing weapons or other military activities in space. That's absolutely contrary to what our policy has articulated by the White House,” said Tom Casey, US State Department spokesman, in January last year.

U.S. changes its mind

But on Thursday the United States announced it will use a missile to bring down a broken satellite. It comes at a sensitive time when both China and Russia are concerned about any prospective space arms race.

The Standard Missile 3 would be fired from a navy ship to intercept the satellite before it re-enters the atmosphere.

The official reason is that is poses a threat to human life, as the spy-satellite contains huge amount of toxic rocket fuel.

“After further review of this option (the missile intercept), and in particular consideration of the question of saving or reducing injury to human life, the President, on the recommendation of his national and homeland security teams directed the Department of Defence to carry out the intercept,” said James Jeffries, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser.

Analysts' opinion

According to the Pentagon, shooting the satellite down would also help to reduce any debris from any reentry to the atmosphere.

But some experts are unsatisfied with the official line of the United States' motives and that its strategy has changed.

Analysts say that the Pentagon may be planning to conduct a full-scale test of an anti-satellite weapon.

“This missile is part of the American military arsenal including the navy. These rockets are designed to shoot down tactical ballistic missiles. Of course, this will be a weapon test,” Konstantin Sivkov, military expert, said.

A space analyst, Yury Karash, joined RT to comment on the situation.

The United States seems to be starting to implement its space policy, revised in 2006, which stated Washington had a right on freedom of action in space.

But with Russia and China strongly opposed to any arms in space, other countries might join the fight against any expansion of the so-called star wars.