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February 18, 2008

View Images of Top-Secret Satellite

Posted: 02:39 PM ET

Despite a news conference (see the previous blog item from CNN Senior Producer Kate Tobin, and the excellent reader responses), we still don't know all that much about USA-193, the crippled spy satellite that wants to drop out and come home early.

We know a few details about its size, and the possible toxicity of its frozen half-ton of hydrazine fuel.  But we don't know exactly what it does, or where it is.  We wouldn't want that information to fall into the hands of America's enemies.

 Gladly, Friedrich Deters of LaGrange, North Carolina is not one of America's enemies, as far as we know.  Because he got a picture of it. 

Friedrich is one of an army of satellite buffs who research, monitor, and track some of the thousands of orbiting satellites that are up there.  But his photos, taken just before dawn as USA-193 streaked across the sky, looking quite a bit like a meteorite, remind us that today's world is a hard place to keep a secret.   If a smart guy in North Carolina can get a look, how about a hostile government?

Filed under: NASA • Space

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George   February 18th, 2008 3:23 pm ET

It is real easy to find out where USA-193 is.
Go to
and take a look at when you can see it from your house. Spotting things in orbit around the Earth is REALLY easy.

Don Vito, U.S.   February 18th, 2008 3:52 pm ET

I wonder if this is the one that is used to spy on us? I think I remember when this spy satellite was launched by NASA. So, if they blow this thing into a million pieces, that is going to make space junk even worse. You can always count on the military to mess things up and then blow it up.

md   February 18th, 2008 5:49 pm ET

I believe I heard it's on its way down out of orbit. The pieces will burn up on reentry. They are destroying it so that the pieces are small, not bus-sized.....

Top Posts «   February 18th, 2008 7:02 pm ET

[...] View Images of Top-Secret Satellite Despite a news conference (see the previous blog item from CNN Senior Producer Kate Tobin, and the excellent reader [...] [...]

Richard   February 19th, 2008 2:59 pm ET

I really hope that someone will be able to get photos, or even better video, of the satellite being blown up.

Unfortunately I wouldn't have thought that would be very easy, since the military probably wants to keep it all a big secret. Saying that, there are a lot of people interested in this story, so hopefully at least one of them will be able to get something. 🙂


Pat   February 19th, 2008 3:50 pm ET

If it is so darned important for the military to spend millions of dollars to try and blow this satellite up, what I want to know is, what's plan B? How much planning is going into the "what if " senario should they miss and the satellite falls to Earth?

Richard   February 19th, 2008 5:33 pm ET

Pat: if the first missile fails, they plan to send a second missile up, which would cost another $10 million.

If that fails to, I think they are just going to let it fall to Earth anyway, because the probability of it hitting anything or anyone is extremely minimal.


Joe   February 19th, 2008 7:13 pm ET

All sounds a little suspect to me. I wonder if this failed satellite story is all just a cover for the military to test shooting an enemy satellite out of orbit. Will be a little embarrassing if they fail considering China were already successful.
What do you know ... just found this:

Danny   February 20th, 2008 12:43 pm ET

We already shot down a satellite in 1985, way before anyone else. The fuel, hydrazine, is extremely toxic. They're just trying not to poison a ton of people, that's all.

rand   February 20th, 2008 1:45 pm ET

I don't know a single person who believes the U.S. is attempting to shoot this errant satellite down because of Hydrazine fuel. It is impossible for even the least intuitive human to believe this cover story, and yet CNN (and all other US media orgs) has not uttered a single questioning word on the possibility of alternative reasons for this act.

In my view, this says something more damning about the cowering (or incompetent) state of the American news media, than it does about US military motivations.

PTG   February 20th, 2008 5:57 pm ET

If they don't hit it with a missle, were will this satellite land on earth?

Why is FEMA on alert?

Their must be more to this then we know!!!!

Robert   February 20th, 2008 6:06 pm ET

With regard to shooting down this spy satellite, I haven't heard any options beyond either shooting the satellite down or letting it enter the atmosphere and partially disintegrate before crashing.

Was using the the space shuttle to help intercept and potentially re-divert the satellite back into space not a viable option?


Robert   February 21st, 2008 11:58 am ET

Glad to see that ordinary citizens see the propaganda about shooting down a satellite. As was already said is a shame the news media do not question the motives of these actions. Since China did the same thing first, the USA military was compelled to do the same; with some sort of PR (public relations) off course, to make the public buy it. Our government has mastered the art of scaring people, so what a better diversion that extremely toxic hydrazine fuel falling from the sky.

Michael   February 24th, 2008 3:34 am ET

The Chinese blew up their satellite while it was still in orbit over 500 miles up. The explosion left hundreds of pieces of debris in orbit; it has been called the worst space disaster in history.

They also used an anti-satellite weapon while the US used a modified standard ground-to-air missile.

Ya'll need to stop seeing conspiracies everywhere. The US was up-front with this shoot-down and the mission details were given well in advance. The Chinese kept their "test" a secret.

Perhaps you should be asking the Chinese government a few questions.

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