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Pentagon: Satellite debris not a danger

Source:ap.org Author:ROBERT BURNS Date:03/25/14 Click:

WASHINGTON - The military's analysis of the missile strike on a dead U.S. spy satellite has revealed no sign of danger from debris, including no hazard from the satellite's fuel tank, a Pentagon spokesman said Friday.

"As we continue to do the post-strike analysis, (it) continues to give us confidence that the hydrazine tank was ruptured. However, the analysis is still ongoing," spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

U.S. officials have said the main reason they shot down the satellite was because of the potential health hazard to humans in the event the satellite's fuel tank, carrying 1,000 pounds of toxic hydrazine, landed in a populated area. The satellite lost power shortly after reaching its initial orbit in December 2006, and it was projected to re-enter the atmosphere in the first days of March.

On Wednesday night a Navy cruiser in the Pacific launched a missile at the satellite, and military video of the event indicated that it pulverized the spacecraft.

Whitman said initial indications reported on Thursday that the SM-3 missile hit the fuel tank as planned have been reinforced by further analysis. But he said officials are still not 100 percent certain.

"There has been no new data that has changed our level of confidence in the success of the operation," he said.

Whitman said there were no indications of danger posed by falling debris, some of which already has re-entered the atmosphere. Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Thursday that they had detected no debris larger than a football, and Whitman said that as of Friday that statement remained true.

"Debris tracking and cataloguing is ongoing," Whitman said. "There is no change to our belief that most of the debris should re-enter within about two weeks."

Whitman also said that teams of experts assembled by the government in advance of the shootdown to be ready in case significant debris fell on U.S. soil might not be used.

"We are in the process of taking a look and standing down some of those consequence-management and recovery teams," he said.

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