Navy Prepares to Fire on Satellite Tonight

After Atlantis is back, warship will take aim at rogue orbiter
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2008 4:00 AM CST
In this picture provided by the U.S. Navy, Fire Controlman 2nd Class John Whitby, from San Leandro, Calif., operates the radar system control in the combat information center during a ballistic missile...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – The US Navy has warned planes and ships away from a large area of the Pacific ahead of an attempt to shoot down a rogue spy satellite carrying toxic fuel tonight, CNN reports. The space shuttle Atlantis is due back on Earth today and military officials are waiting for its safe return before trying to blast the malfunctioning spy satellite into harmless debris.

A warship will launch a missile at the satellite, aiming for a fuel tank some 4 feet long moving at 20,000 miles an hour high above the Earth. There may be time for another shot if the first one misses. If the target is hit before it crashes to Earth, observers looking into the skies west of Hawaii may be able to spot the explosion.