USSTRATCOM comments on space debris article

By | U.S. Strategic Command Public Affairs | Feb. 1, 2010


In response to a suggestion made in Mr. Williams' story regarding achieving"parity" as reason for intercepting USA193 in 2008(http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory?id=9676069), the idea that theU.S. was searching for even ground in space operations couldn't be fartherfrom the reality of the situation. There is no comparison between the ChinaASAT and the intercept of USA 193. The Chinese shot at a satellite that wasup to 800 kilometers. They destroyed it, and the debris from that will lastfor 100 years, increasing risk to humans and systems in space.

In contrast, the President of the United States decided to intercept thenon-functioning USA193 satellite to reduce the risk to people and property. The decision to engage the satellite was selected as the best course ofaction to mitigate risks to human lives from the 1,000 pounds of hazardousfuel stored inside a titanium tank that would probably have survivedreentry. The U.S. was completely transparent about they did, and why theydid it. The shot was taken as low as reasonable, balancing the probabilityof success with altitude. This meant the debris from the intercept would bedown in six months to a year.

The initial number of trackable objects from the USA193 intercept was about3,000; more than 50 percent of the debris created entered the Earth'satmosphere within 45 minutes of the event. The intercept of USA193 was doneprudently and transparently. The U.S. not only told everyone they weregoing to take action to mitigate the risks, they also contactedembassies around the world and told them what the consequences of thehydrazine were.