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五角大楼深信卫星的毒燃料已被摧毁

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五角大楼官员说,他们认为海军的导弹在本周三成功地对一个偏离轨道的间谍卫星的燃料罐实施了直接攻击,消除了对于地球人的毒害威胁。

“我们有高度的信心,我们击中了燃料罐,”海军陆战队上将詹姆士·卡特赖特在周四上午的国防部简报会上说。

他说,攻击之后所见到的火球和蒸汽云,表明有毒的联氨燃料已被摧毁。攻击卫星的导弹并没有携带炸药弹头。

卡特赖特还表示,卫星似乎已被碎成小块。

“因此,到目前为止,我们没有看到任何一个比足球更大的东西,”他说。

军方正在分析攻击过程中的数据,以确认燃料罐被击中,以及没有较大的碎片逃脱侦测,卡特赖特说。

这位将军说,这枚击中卫星的导弹,是美国海军弹道导弹护卫巡洋舰伊利湖号在东部时间周三下午10点26分从太平洋西部的夏威夷发射的。130多英里上空的卫星的解体,已在24分钟之后被证实,卡特赖特说。

他说,抓住了他们第一次攻击卫星的机会,并且在预期恶劣的天气可能阻止导弹发射的前几天采取了行动。

卡特赖特说,卫星碎片在越过大西洋和太平洋上空时会在大气中被燃尽。预计未来一两天内过程如此。

官员们曾经说过,在航天飞机亚特兰蒂斯号降落——它确实是在周三——之前,将不发射这枚导弹,以确保被摧毁的卫星碎片不致击中航天飞机。

这颗卫星是2006年12月发射的。它失去了动力,而且它的中央计算机几乎紧接着失效,让卫星失去控制。这颗卫星载有精密的和秘密的图像传感器。

因为它在发射后立即发生故障,它有一个满满的燃料罐——大约 1,000 磅凝结状态的、有毒的联氨类推进剂。

如果不加干预,卫星将在3月初落向地球,官员们说。

如果让卫星自己下降到地球,燃料罐可能仍然保留返回地球。它可能散布开的有害的、甚至是可能致命的烟雾,覆盖面积有两个足球场大小。联氨类似氯或氨,它会影响肺部及呼吸组织。

但是一些分析家说,五角大楼对于击落卫星还有安全以外的原因。

“间谍机关不希望卫星的某些部分落入坏人之手,”一名前助理国防部长菲力普·柯伊尔告诉 SPACE.com 说。

该网站还报道说,柯依尔说这次击毁让五角大楼能够炫耀美国的导弹防御能力,并且向中国证实“我们也可以像他们做过的那样,在试验中击落一颗卫星而不造成很多的碎片 。”

中国军队在去年曾经摧毁了一个老化的气象卫星。

詹姆士·杰弗里,副国家安全顾问,否认了美国放宽其军事力量的指控。“这完全是为了努力减少对人类的危险,”他说。

但北京似乎有怀疑。

“中国正继续密切关注美国的行动对于外空安全和有关国家可能造成的危害,"外交部发言人刘建超周四说。

“中国还要求美国...及时向国际社会提供必要的资料… …因此,有关国家能够采取防范措施 。”

美国国防部长罗伯特·盖茨周四晚些时候说,五角大楼可以让中国分享一些有关这次击毁的资料。

2007年1月,中国采用一个陆基导弹摧毁了一个绕地球上空528英里运行的2,200磅的卫星。美国宇航局估计,这次冲击留下了10万多片碎片绕地球盘旋,其中2,600个超过4英寸。这个美国机构称,风云-C卫星的解体是历史上最严重的事情。

1989年,一架美军喷气式战斗机从海拔80,000英尺发射过一枚改良的空对空导弹进入太空,摧毁了一颗美国卫星。这一举动增加了美国周三采取行动严格防范潜在灾害前景的证据,卡特赖特说。

广告

一名美国外交家和裁军分析人士克里斯蒂娜·罗卡说,军方确定了他们试图击毁的时间,使得产生的碎片下泻到大气中,而不会干扰其它的卫星。她的意见被登载在联合国的一项有关这个月瑞士日内瓦裁军谈判会议的网上调查报告中。

军方人员也确定其行动时间尽力设法减小碎片击中人口稠密区域的机会。但是美国“准备对各国政府提供协助以减轻卫星碎片撞击其领土的任何后果,”根据日内瓦联合国办事处网站的一份罗卡的评论报告说。#p#分页标题#e#

译文:Pentagon confident satellite's toxic fuel destroyed

Pentagon officials said they think a Navy missile scored a direct hiton the fuel tank of an errant spy satellite late Wednesday, eliminatinga toxic threat to people on Earth.

"We have a high degree of confidence we got the tank," Marine Gen.James Cartwright said at a Pentagon briefing Thursday morning.

A fireball and a vapor cloud seen after the strike appeared to indicatethe toxic hydrazine fuel had been destroyed, he said. The missile thatstruck the satellite did not carry an explosive warhead.

Cartwright also said the satellite seemed to be reduced to small pieces.

"Thus far, we see nothing larger than a football," he said.

The military was analyzing data from the strike to confirm that thetank was hit and that no larger pieces of debris escaped detection,Cartwright said.

The missile that struck the satellite waslaunched from the ballistic missile defense cruiser USS Lake Erie fromthe Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii at 10:26 p.m. ET Wednesday, thegeneral said. Breakup of the satellite more than 130 miles above wasconfirmed 24 minutes later, Cartwright said.

Cartwright said the took its first opportunity to hit the satellite and acted before daysof expected bad weather may have prevented a missile launch.

Cartwright said debris from the satellite was burning up in theatmosphere over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. This process wasexpected for the next day or so.

Officials had said the missile would not be fired until the spaceshuttle Atlantis landed, which it did Wednesday, to ensure debris fromthe destroyed satellite didn't strike the shuttle.

The satellitewas launched in December 2006. It lost power and its central computerfailed almost immediately afterward, leaving it uncontrollable. Thesatellite carried a sophisticated and secret imaging sensor.

Because it malfunctioned immediately after being launched, it had afull tank -- about 1,000 pounds -- of frozen, toxic hydrazinepropellant.

Without intervention, the satellite would have fallen to Earth in early March, officials said.

The fuel tank might have survived re-entry if the satellite hadfallen to Earth on its own. It could have dispersed harmful or evenpotentially deadly fumes over an area the size of two football fields.Hydrazine is similar to chlorine or ammonia in that it affects thelungs and breathing tissue.

But some analysts said the Pentagon had reasons other than safety for bringing down the satellite.

"The spy agency doesn't want some part of the satellite to fall intothe wrong hands," Philip Coyle, a former assistant secretary ofdefense, told SPACE.com.

The Web site also reported that Coylesaid the shootdown allowed the Pentagon to show off U.S. missiledefense capabilities and to prove to "we can shoot down a satellite in a test without creating a lot of debris like they did."

The Chinese military destroyed an aging weather satellite last year.

James Jeffrey, deputy national security adviser, denied the allegationthat the U.S. was flexing its military muscle. "This is all abouttrying to reduce the danger to human beings," he said.

But Beijing appears to have doubts.

"China is continuing to closely follow the possible harm caused by theU.S. action to outer space security and relevant countries," ForeignMinistry spokesman Liu Jianchao said Thursday.

"China furtherrequests that the United States ... promptly provide to theinternational community the necessary information ... so that relevantcountries can take precautions."

Later Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Pentagon would share some information on the shootdown with China.

In January 2007, China used a land-based missile to destroy a2,200-pound satellite that was orbiting 528 miles above the Earth. Theimpact left more than 100,000 pieces of debris orbiting the planet,NASA estimated -- 2,600 of them more than 4 inches across. The U.S.agency called the breakup of the Fengyun-C satellite the worst inhistory.

In 1989, a U.S. fighter jet destroyed an Americansatellite by firing a modified air-to-air missile into space from analtitude of 80,000 feet. That move adds to evidence the U.S. actedWednesday strictly to guard against the prospect of a potentialdisaster, Cartwright said.

The military timed its shootdown attempt so that resulting debris wouldtumble into the atmosphere and not interfere with other satellites,said Christina Rocca, a U.S. diplomat and expert on disarmament. Hercomments were included in an online U.N. report on this month'sConference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland.
The military also timed its efforts to minimize the chances that debriswould hit populated areas. But the United States is "prepared to offerassistance to governments to mitigate the consequences of any satellitedebris impacts on their territory," according to a report of Rocca'sremarks on the Web site of the Geneva office of the United Nations.

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