LaMa on the Evening News

Long-time forum regular LaMa (aka Marco Langbroek) has made it onto the news in the Netherlands! Thankfully, it's not for anything bad. He was interviewed in his capacity as an amateur satellite tracker (in Dutch a "satellietspotter") about that satellite the pentagon is planning to shoot down. Marco writes:

Been on the Dutch 10 pm TV news by our National broadcaster NOS today. Had a cameraman and reporter visiting me for that early this evening.
It concerns an item about the spy satellite USA 193 that the US navy is going to knock from the sky with a missile. I am one of the amateur satellite trackers who has been tracking this thing.
The broadcast can be seen here:
The (short) item starts at 2m30s in the record, and my (even shorter) appearance in it at about 3m25s. It shows me behind my desk in my home giving my take on what I think is the real reason behind this exercise, and then it shows me doing some (mock) observations from my home.
As it is in Dutch, you won’t understand a word though…

Marco's right. I didn't understand a word. But it looked to me like he knew what he was talking about. And that's what's important.

But now I'm dying to know -- what is the real reason they're shooting that thing down?


Posted on Wed Feb 20, 2008


Now I just feel special for being Dutch and understanding every word raspberry
Posted by Snowowl  on  Wed Feb 20, 2008  at  05:52 PM
My guess, based upon my experience in the military, is that the satellite - an admitted spy satellite - contains classified equipment that might survive the re-entry intact enough that it might be discovered and analyzed by someone who shouldn't be doing it. The toxic fuel that is the stated reason for the shoot-down will probably burn up and be destroyed in the atmosphere. The idea that it is a test for an anti-satellite weapons program is possible but I don't think probable. Slightly more likely is to demonstrate an anti-missile capability as a warning to Iran, North Korea, or others. But I think the classified equipment idea is the most likely.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Wed Feb 20, 2008  at  07:23 PM
I agree, the missile shootdown is probably to destroy classified spy equipment. Also found it interesting that FEMA has been mobilized to help if anything goes wrong (i.e. recover any intact pieces that may survive reentry)
Posted by Amanda  in  Toledo, OH  on  Wed Feb 20, 2008  at  11:35 PM
That argument of the danger of the fuel tank with hydrazine is bogus. neither do I believe it is about destroying classified equipment. Only very sturdy material (usually parts of the rocket engine) normally survive a re-entry.

The real reasons are probably a combination of things:

- an ideal opportunity to test their anti-satellite and anti-ICBM weaponry under "real life" conditions;

- sending a message to China in answer to last year's succesful Chinese ASAT test on Fengyun 1C (plus a message to the homefront: "no worry, we can too so if they try..."). A bit of cold-war tactics.

See also my detailed account (in English) at:

A source which also had a lot of US government-related visitors lately by the way (including IP's from the State Department, DoD and a short visit by the NSA)
Posted by LaMa  in  Europe  on  Wed Feb 20, 2008  at  11:53 PM
By the way: latest news is that they indeed shot it to pieces last night.

Amateur observers from the Canadian west coast report a spectaculair show of fragments burning up in the atmosphere
Posted by LaMa  in  Europe  on  Thu Feb 21, 2008  at  12:07 AM
By the way, just got of the hook of the phone twice. I did a short interview from the 8 am radio news, and now have been booked for tonight's edition of NOVA, a widely watched news backgrounds program on Dutch TV. They are coming to film me again for it this afternoon.

And all just because I like to watch satellites...
Posted by LaMa  in  Europe  on  Thu Feb 21, 2008  at  01:14 AM
Because the thing is infested with evil, life-sucking aliens, of course.
Posted by Nona  on  Thu Feb 21, 2008  at  05:24 AM
The URL has changed, it is now at:

(select the 22:00 record)
Posted by LaMa  in  Europe  on  Thu Feb 21, 2008  at  07:46 AM
He looks so cute. wink

And I had no idea Dutch would sound so odd to my ears. It's very unlike what I had expected it to sound, though it is interesting how certain words (satellite, for one) pop out clear because they're more or less the same.
Posted by Charybdis  in  Hell  on  Thu Feb 21, 2008  at  08:16 AM
Way to go Marco!
Posted by Oppiejoe  in  Haslett  on  Thu Feb 21, 2008  at  09:13 AM
LaMa, because of the still classified nature of the capability of the drone, I cannot give any specific details. However, in 1971 I was working on an experimental reconnaissance drone, the AQM-91A. During one of the tests, at a classified altitude, part of the navigation system failed. The drone believed it was upside down and began climbing to regain the proper altitude. Naturally because of the navigation failure this caused the drone to dive. The more it tried to climb, the steeper it dived. It plowed into the desert from an extremely high altitude. Much of the equipment had parts that survived. It was mainly circut boards that survived, we tested them but had to destroy them even though they worked. More fragile pieces such as vacuum tubes and rigid coax that was destroyed and most of the casings were dented, torn or otherwise worse for wear. I believe even the engine did not take enough damage to destroy it but that was out of my field so I only heard rumor on that. So, yes, I believe that the equipment on board this spy satellite could survive. Remember, this satellite is publicly stated to be as big as a bus. Size alone will help prevent destruction during re-entry.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Thu Feb 21, 2008  at  09:42 AM
"...FEMA has been mobilized to help if anything goes wrong (i.e. recover any intact pieces that may survive reentry)..."

Based on FEMA's record so far in the Bush administration, we can count on intact pieces remaining scattered around the world for the next few centuries.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Punkin Center, Texas  on  Thu Feb 21, 2008  at  09:54 AM
Its orbit has been steadily degrading and it was going to fall to earth possibly endangering populated areas. Small debris is less dangerous than huge hunks.

The problem is that there is a veritable belt of space debris as it is circling the planet... a junkyard.
Posted by hulitoons  in  Abingdon, Maryland  on  Thu Feb 21, 2008  at  10:21 AM
Huli: yes it was falling (the observing group I partake in documented that nicely with our orbit determinations). But even then there would have been no real danger. Rocket boosters and satellites fall out of the sky several times a year.

Big Gary: this is NOT like the Chinese test on a satellite on higher altitude. All of the USA 193 debris is at low altitude and will decay in hours to (at most) a few weeks. So certainly no debris circling for centuries

By the way: the Pentagon released this cool footage of the ASAT attack last night:

Posted by LaMa  in  Europe  on  Thu Feb 21, 2008  at  10:33 AM
Okay, retry of that Pentagon footage URL:
Posted by LaMa  in  Europe  on  Thu Feb 21, 2008  at  10:33 AM
Thanks for sharing the Pentagon link LaMa
Posted by Oppiejoe  in  Haslett  on  Thu Feb 21, 2008  at  11:00 AM
My second TV-interview for the news backgrounds program NOVA has just been broadcast and is now on-line too:

Choose the item titled: "Amerikaanse marine vernietigt spionagesatelliet"

It is a much longer item with several minutes interview. Again, all in Dutch, sorry :p
Posted by LaMa  in  Europe  on  Thu Feb 21, 2008  at  03:10 PM
I can say that Hydrazine itself is actually fairly dangerous. (MSDS) As seen in the MSDS, they recommend a full protective suit with respirator when handling the stuff.

Now, as to the questions of wether that's the fuel used, or wether the fuel tank would survive re-entry or crack open on impact and possibly explode... I have no idea. It's not my area of expertise. The prospect of it getting shot down due to classified components on board is plausible. That's in consideration of the fact that the US doesn't want its spy toys getting exposed to the public, preventing any risk of opposing organizations getting a better idea how to escape that brand of surveillance. If that were the case, however, a better solution might have been to use the missile to knock it /out/ of Earth orbit, and ensure that /none/ of it comes back.
Posted by dUc0N  in  Germany  on  Tue Feb 26, 2008  at  06:45 PM
Commenting is no longer available in this channel entry.