Author Topic: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control  (Read 33347 times)

Offline JimO

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A respected Dutch amateur satellite tracker has reported on his blog that a Japanese spy satellite, which broke down in space four years ago,
is predicted to hit the atmosphere early next year.
See  http://sattrackcam.blogspot.com/2011/04/another-malfunctioned-spy-satellite-is.html

The satellite probably carries a significant amount of the
toxic chemical fuel, hydrazine. A very preliminary personal
estimate of mine is that the object may be about one tenth
as hazardous as the infamous 'USA-193' spy satellite.

In my analysis of the USA-193 'shootdown debate', I found the
commentators most eager to find sinister motives for the US decision
to be those with the least knowledge of actual spaceflight operations --
and the most mistaken 'pseudo-knowledge' of past safety practices.
There was also significant naked political hostility to the Bush Administration.

I wrote up the media debates and mistakes in 'New Atlantis' magazine:
http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/down-in-flames

It was based on my own professional space operations experience and my long friendship with key personnel on the DoD project, including former astronaut Kevin Chilton, the then-commander of the US Strategic Command in charge of the project.

Perhaps we can help refute the pessimistic warning with which I closed
my 'New Atlantis' article on the mass media misinformation about the true USA-193 hazards: "A well-defined and thoroughly-researched
technological hazard assessment has been buried in misinformation.
This does not bode well for the next time a space hazard requires action."

"Next time" is NOW.
« Last Edit: 04/20/2011 06:00 pm by JimO »

Offline rdale

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #1 on: 04/20/2011 06:01 pm »
So there's talk of it being shot down? By Japan or by the US?

Offline bobthemonkey

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #2 on: 04/20/2011 06:59 pm »
To fill in the gaps, Japan is the only other country with SM-3 capability and a development partner for the programme.

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #3 on: 04/21/2011 01:13 pm »
To fill in the gaps, Japan is the only other country with SM-3 capability and a development partner for the programme.

Boy Japan repeating the US action would really drive the Chinese nuts! Eeeks!!!

Also, we do not know how much hydrazine is left... if any... This all assumes after the electrical failure that they never regained any control and did not empty the tanks.
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Offline rdale

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #4 on: 04/21/2011 01:39 pm »
So if they emptied it out - why are they planning to shoot it down?

Offline Lee Jay

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #5 on: 04/21/2011 02:04 pm »
Good article, Jim, but to me the strongest evidence that the tank would have survived re-entry is the fact that Columbia's tanks survived:

http://www.collectspace.com/ubb/Forum23/HTML/002245.html

I don't know how anyone can look at that image that Robert posted and claim that a full tank of frozen hydrazine has no chance of surviving an uncontrolled entry.

Offline 4353

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #6 on: 04/21/2011 02:12 pm »

Also, we do not know how much hydrazine is left... if any... This all assumes after the electrical failure that they never regained any control and did not empty the tanks.

From the orbital evolution since the failure, it is clear they did not regain control: the satellite has been steadily coming down since, with no sign of a reboost. And the optical behaviour of the satellite suggests attitude is not under control either.

Plus, I am not even sure the operators would be able to empty the tank at all even if they could regain some control on the craft. It is not easy to empty a tank in a zero-gravity environment - it would need a pressure source to empty the tank, it doesn't just drain by itself. I do know some rocket stages can vent fuel, but am not sure this satellite must be able to. If they had the possibility, it needed to be done soon after the failure, as the fuel otherwise freezes inside the tank. I also would suspect that a venting event would show up as a slight orbital change.

« Last Edit: 04/21/2011 02:20 pm by 4353 »
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http://sattrackcam.blogspot.com

Offline clint

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #7 on: 04/21/2011 02:13 pm »
Jim, with respect, I do not recall any technical analysis that you did on the subject.

The only real analysis that was done came out against your views if I remember right. It is clear that the military did not do this just to protect human beings, and they likely will not do it again either. Here is the analysis of FOIA'ed NASA papers by the physicist at Harvard:

http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/technical-comments-the-us-satellite-shootdown


and his response to your 'analysis':

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1200/1

I think the main reason for uSA-913 was to stop any pieces of it landing in China or Russia...my 2 cents!

I'd say it's time for you to get over this and admit you were wrong for once...

-Clint Sharpe

Offline 4353

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #8 on: 04/21/2011 02:15 pm »
So if they emptied it out - why are they planning to shoot it down?

Nobody is planning to shoot it yet (not Japan, not the USA). The question raised, is whether that should be considered.

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http://sattrackcam.blogspot.com

Offline Jim

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #9 on: 04/21/2011 02:27 pm »
Jim, with respect, I do not recall any technical analysis that you did on the subject.

The only real analysis that was done came out against your views if I remember right. It is clear that the military did not do this just to protect human beings, and they likely will not do it again either. Here is the analysis of FOIA'ed NASA papers by the physicist at Harvard:

http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/technical-comments-the-us-satellite-shootdown


and his response to your 'analysis':

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1200/1

I think the main reason for uSA-913 was to stop any pieces of it landing in China or Russia...my 2 cents!

I'd say it's time for you to get over this and admit you were wrong for once...

-Clint Sharpe

Jim was right

Offline clint

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #10 on: 04/21/2011 02:28 pm »
Jim, with respect, I do not recall any technical analysis that you did on the subject.

The only real analysis that was done came out against your views if I remember right. It is clear that the military did not do this just to protect human beings, and they likely will not do it again either. Here is the analysis of FOIA'ed NASA papers by the physicist at Harvard:

http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/technical-comments-the-us-satellite-shootdown


and his response to your 'analysis':

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1200/1

I think the main reason for uSA-913 was to stop any pieces of it landing in China or Russia...my 2 cents!

I'd say it's time for you to get over this and admit you were wrong for once...

-Clint Sharpe

Jim was right

Wow -- your analysis and arguments are almost as deep as JimO's! ;)

Offline clint

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #11 on: 04/21/2011 02:30 pm »
Good article, Jim, but to me the strongest evidence that the tank would have survived re-entry is the fact that Columbia's tanks survived:

http://www.collectspace.com/ubb/Forum23/HTML/002245.html

I don't know how anyone can look at that image that Robert posted and claim that a full tank of frozen hydrazine has no chance of surviving an uncontrolled entry.

A full tank has a higher ballistic coef. than an empty one.

Read the analysis on the subject (see below)

Offline 4353

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #12 on: 04/21/2011 02:32 pm »
Good article, Jim, but to me the strongest evidence that the tank would have survived re-entry is the fact that Columbia's tanks survived:

http://www.collectspace.com/ubb/Forum23/HTML/002245.html

I don't know how anyone can look at that image that Robert posted and claim that a full tank of frozen hydrazine has no chance of surviving an uncontrolled entry.

To be fair: the Columbia disaster was however not an uncontrolled re-entry: it was a controlled re-entry gone wrong due to structural failure of the craft at some point during the re-entry. The breakup did not occur before some time into the re-entry and hence will not have been similar to the breakup in an uncontrolled re-entry. Plus, a Shuttle is build to withstand stresses exactly because it is expected to re-enter and survive, and certainly sensitive and dangerous elements like the fuel tanks will be designed with that in mind (you don't want your Shuttle to blow up while re-entering). The typical satellite (nor its tank) will, however, not have been designed with a re-entry in mind.
« Last Edit: 04/21/2011 02:34 pm by 4353 »
Marco Langbroek - SatTrackCam
http://sattrackcam.blogspot.com

Offline Jim

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #13 on: 04/21/2011 02:32 pm »

A full tank has a higher ballistic coef. than an empty one.


And what does that have to do with anything?  Some of Columbia tanks were full.
« Last Edit: 04/21/2011 02:32 pm by Jim »

Offline Downix

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #14 on: 04/21/2011 02:33 pm »
Jim, with respect, I do not recall any technical analysis that you did on the subject.

The only real analysis that was done came out against your views if I remember right. It is clear that the military did not do this just to protect human beings, and they likely will not do it again either. Here is the analysis of FOIA'ed NASA papers by the physicist at Harvard:

http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/technical-comments-the-us-satellite-shootdown


and his response to your 'analysis':

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1200/1

I think the main reason for uSA-913 was to stop any pieces of it landing in China or Russia...my 2 cents!

I'd say it's time for you to get over this and admit you were wrong for once...

-Clint Sharpe

Jim was right

Wow -- your analysis and arguments are almost as deep as JimO's! ;)
He does not mince words. I can count on one hand the number of times he has been wrong. If he says something, do a lot of homework before countering.
chuck - Toilet paper has no real value? Try living with 5 other adults for 6 months in a can with no toilet paper. Man oh man. Toilet paper would be worth it's weight in gold!

Offline Jim

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #15 on: 04/21/2011 02:34 pm »
certainly sensitive and dangerous elements like the fuel tanks will be designed with that in mind


There is no difference in the design of the tanks.  The orbiter tanks were never designed with exposure to entry in mind.


Offline Jim

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #16 on: 04/21/2011 02:38 pm »
Lets not go into USA-193 anymore.  Most people on this site are going to back the DOD on it.

Offline clint

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #17 on: 04/21/2011 02:51 pm »

A full tank has a higher ballistic coef. than an empty one.


And what does that have to do with anything?  Some of Columbia tanks were full.

Read what 4353 said:

the Columbia disaster was however not an uncontrolled re-entry: it was a controlled re-entry gone wrong due to structural failure of the craft at some point during the re-entry. The breakup did not occur before some time into the re-entry and hence will not have been similar to the breakup in an uncontrolled re-entry. Plus, a Shuttle is build to withstand stresses exactly because it is expected to re-enter and survive, and certainly sensitive and dangerous elements like the fuel tanks will be designed with that in mind (you don't want your Shuttle to blow up while re-entering). The typical satellite (nor its tank) will, however, not have been designed with a re-entry in mind.

and read the articles quoted.

Offline clint

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #18 on: 04/21/2011 02:53 pm »
Jim, with respect, I do not recall any technical analysis that you did on the subject.

The only real analysis that was done came out against your views if I remember right. It is clear that the military did not do this just to protect human beings, and they likely will not do it again either. Here is the analysis of FOIA'ed NASA papers by the physicist at Harvard:

http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/technical-comments-the-us-satellite-shootdown


and his response to your 'analysis':

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1200/1

I think the main reason for uSA-913 was to stop any pieces of it landing in China or Russia...my 2 cents!

I'd say it's time for you to get over this and admit you were wrong for once...

-Clint Sharpe

Jim was right

Wow -- your analysis and arguments are almost as deep as JimO's! ;)
He does not mince words. I can count on one hand the number of times he has been wrong. If he says something, do a lot of homework before countering.

Does not matter if he does not mince words, if he is not qualified to analyse re-entry physics. I do not either, but the URLs above quote NASA papers and do convince.

Read before replying. Good policy in general.

Offline Jim

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Re: Hydrazine-laden Japanese spysat falling out of control
« Reply #19 on: 04/21/2011 02:56 pm »
if he is not qualified to analyse re-entry physics

Neither is the author

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