Said Top 10 List was published on the occasion of the shoot-down of USA-193, a military satellite launched in 2006 that malfunctioned and was destroyed in February 2008 by a RIM-161/SM-3 ship-based missile launched from the guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie west of Hawaii in a move probably intended to tell China to quit eyeballin’ our space junk.
Poor USA-193 gets no respect, however; it’s only number 10 on the list. The other 9 make cheerful reading, including a woman in Oklahoma who got hit on the head by a piece of a rocket, the Australian discovery of supposed alien spheres later said to be water tanks from Gemini V, and the 1978 re-entry of Soviet nuclear-powered satellite Kosmos 954 over Canadian territory, for which the Sov’s were billed over CA$6 million, just for starters. There’s a significant dose of tragedy, as well, as with the Columbia disaster.
But what’s all this about the Space-Based Space Surveillance? No, it’s not a branch of the Homeland Security Department of Homeland Security Departments. It’s a Department of Defense program coordinated by the Air Force designed to track space junk viewed as potential future threats to “U.S. space assets.” The satellite launched this weekend is an SBSS pathfinder, the first of
There’s an official informational video about the system here, and you can check out the Ball Aerospace informational PDF that looks like it was crafted at the height of the Kennedy era when guys my Dad’s age were chainsmoking Tareytons and wearing black ties with short sleeve shirts.
If you’re into that sort of thing, users at YouTube have posted several different videos of this weekend’s Vandenberg Air Force Base launch of the Minotaur IV bearing the SBSS pathfinder, from varying sources. One was even shot from someone’s back yard.
Oh, and if you’re a complete nerd, CelesTrak.com has a completely awesome post-event analysis of the 2008 interception at USA-193 complete with bizarre screencaps straight out of a flight simulator circa 1983.