Friday, February 22, 2008

Belarus says U.S. tested new space weapon

War In Iraq
By: RIA Novosti on: 21.02.2008

MINSK, February 21 (RIA Novosti) - The Belarusian defense minister accused the United States on Thursday of using the destruction of a defunct NASA satellite to test a new space weapon.

An SM-3 missile fired at 3:26 a.m. GMT this morning from the USS Lake Erie, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, hit the bus-sized satellite about 247 kilometers (133 nautical miles) above the ocean to the northwest of Hawaii.

"The cruiser that launched the missile has participated in a number of missile tests, and here they have got a perfect opportunity to conduct a real launch," Leonid Maltsev said. "Any military commander would have used such an opportunity."

The satellite was launched in 2006 and malfunctioned almost immediately. On board was around 1,000 pounds of propellant fuel (hydrazine), a hazardous material.

President George W. Bush had authorized the destruction of the satellite using a sea-to-air missile "to mitigate the risk to human lives by engaging the nonfunctioning satellite."

Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a news conference in the Pentagon earlier today that the missile hit the disabled spy satellite, sending it falling to Earth, but said he couldn't rule out that hazardous material would also fall to the Earth.

"We're very confident that we hit the satellite. We also have a high degree of confidence that we got the tank," he said, adding that it could take at least another 24 hours to know for sure that the tank containing toxic fuel had been destroyed.

Russia's Defense Ministry said on Thursday it would closely monitor the consequences of the operation.

"We will study the results of this operation," Col.-Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy Air Force commander said. "The satellite's trajectory was far from Russia and the Russian Federation was not threatened by the hit."
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