It Wasn’t About The Hydrazine

Even with Robert Gates “pulling the trigger,” it wasn’t about the tank of hydrazine, a health hazard only if it hit the ground intact. There’s no way a fuel tank built for Earth orbit is going to survive an atmospheric reentry intact.

Unless it wasn’t built for orbit. Like it was a bomb or something. But I don’t think so.

I have no idea why the feds and the military waited till now to shoot down their brain-dead spy satellite, but it’s an easy speculation that it wasn’t the noxious fuel they were worried about.

The physics of it is simple. You have an object travelling at about 17,000 mph hitting the Earth’s upper atmosphere. It starts rolling, tumbling, shaking, and heating up. You have something like the space shuttle, designed to withstand high temperatures and stress of slowing down from 17,000 to 200 in a matter of minutes. A little nick on the wing will do it in, as it tragically did in 2003.

A fuel tank on a spacecraft is designed for one thing: to hold the fuel until it runs out. Tanks are built to be lightweight. Any kind of hit from orbital space junk or a micrometeor is going to breach most anything we can build, so there’s no real point in wasting materials on making it thick or something.

Looks like the military hit the target, though. Nice aim. Does it worry other nations who wonder about their satellites getting shot down?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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3 Responses to It Wasn’t About The Hydrazine

  1. jonolan says:

    I think it worries Putin more that the anti-missile shield sites we’re building in Europe will actually work. Various engineers had previous said they wouldn’t.

  2. Jason says:

    Why did the military shoot down the satellite?

    Easy. It was a postcard to China.

    “Dear China. It’s warm and sunny in the Pacific. Wish you were here. We can shoot down satellites just like you. Only our launch bases are mobile. Much Love, USA.”

  3. FrMatthew says:

    I’m not a person to think that there is any “one” reason for a lot of what happens in life. It’s obvious that it was to demonstrate an ASAT ability, test BMD technology, send messages to various nation-states, and prevent hydazine residue from causing lawsuits. On the last item, see the good article in Aviation Week about tanks which survive reentry: http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story.jsp?id=news/nro013008.xml&headline=Columbia%20Data%20Aids%20Sat%20Re-entry%20Planning%20&channel=space

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