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Author Topic:   Spy satellite making uncontrolled reentry to be shot down by missile
Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-18-2008 10:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What Leroy Cain said is correct: they are intending to land on Wednesday. However, as Flight director Norm Knight said today, they are under no pressure from the military to land then if weather or technical problems would require a delay. In other words, NASA wants to land Wednesday (which is the nominal end-of-mission, satellite or no satellite) but they are under no requirement to do so.

martyn20
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posted 02-19-2008 02:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for martyn20   Click Here to Email martyn20     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The weather is looking good for KSC on Wednesday currently so looks as if they will get down there ok. If they had to land on Wednesday due to the satellite they would also have activated White Sands as well.

As I understand it they can stay up till Friday in relation to onboard consumables.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-19-2008 08:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here's a projected ground track, based on the
speculated Feb. 21 NOTAM:

Meanwhile, a second Notice to Airmen, for the same general vicinity, has been issued for the following day, Feb. 22.

cspg
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posted 02-19-2008 10:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A report on CNN.com says that a first attempt to shoot down the satellite may come Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-19-2008 10:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you notice, CNN's reference to Feb. 20 is the same as the NOTAM for Feb. 21:
The U.S. government issued a formal notice warning ships and planes to stay clear of a large area of the Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii.

The notice says the two- and-a-half hour window begins 2:30 a.m. Thursday Greenwich Mean Time, which is 9:30 p.m. Wednesday on the East Coast, and 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in Hawaii.

cspg
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posted 02-19-2008 10:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
ooooooooops!

(I guess it's the same confusion than regarding the Apollo 11 landing date: 7/20 for the U.S., 7/21 for us in Europe!).

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-19-2008 01:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When NASA uplinks its daily updates to space shuttle crews (execute packages) they often include comics created by the flight controllers. These funnies are not included in the PDF version posted to NASA's website.

The STS-122 Flight Day 13 package included a comic appropriate for this thread:

Not that commander Steve Frick is disappointed with the DoD solution.

"Go Navy," Frick told ABC News in an interview from onboard Atlantis. "My pilot Alan Poindexter and I are both Navy guys and we are very interested in seeing how it goes."

spaceman1953
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posted 02-19-2008 02:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceman1953   Click Here to Email spaceman1953     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am NOT starting a pool, but I bet the USS Halsey (DDG 97) is the lucky ship that shoots it down!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-19-2008 05:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by spaceman1953:
I am NOT starting a pool, but I bet the USS HALSEY (DDG 97) is the lucky ship that shoots it down!
According to various news agencies, the three ships are known: USS Lake Erie, USS Decatur and USS Russell, and the USS Lake Erie will fire the intercept.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-20-2008 09:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Associated Press: Weather may delay satellite shot
High seas in the north Pacific may force the Navy to wait another day before launching a heat-seeking missile on a mission to shoot down a wayward U.S. spy satellite, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

Weather conditions are one of many factors that U.S. military officers are taking into account as they decide whether to proceed with the mission Wednesday or to put it off, according to a senior military officer who briefed reporters at the Pentagon on condition that he not be identified.

The officer said the assumption had been that the mission would go forward Wednesday night, unless conditions are determined to be unfavorable. Earlier in the day, bad weather in the north Pacific was causing high seas, which may be a problem for the USS Lake Erie, a cruiser armed with two SM-3 missiles.

"We don't anticipate the weather being good enough today," the officer said, adding that conditions could improve enough in the hours ahead to permit it to go forward. A final decision would be made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 02-20-2008 10:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just a thought: was there any thought to using Atlantis (which already was in orbit) to rendezvous with the satellite and bring it back to Earth, or at the very least, somehow venting the satellite's tank?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-20-2008 10:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Besides not having any way to grasp or stow the satellite (to the best of anyone's knowledge, it was not designed to be serviced), NROL-21 was in a different orbit than Atlantis and the space station. As such, the shuttle did not have enough propellant to change inclinations to conduct the rendezvous.

stsmithva
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posted 02-20-2008 05:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One of my students asked today (when I showed them some web pages about the upcoming shoot-down) why the shuttle didn't just pick it up while they were up there and bring it down safely. Was I correct to answer:
  1. because it was full of unstable fuel that would not be fun to have thawing onboard;
  2. because it was dangerously low already; and
  3. because there are so few shuttle missions left that they can barely take care of the missions already planned, much less this one.
Now I can add the fact that it was never designed to be serviced. Interesting - is that rare? For something costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to be sent up without the possibility of getting fixed like the Hubble was?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-20-2008 06:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Steve, in my opinion, only your second reason can be considered correct.

Your third point is not really a factor as if the Administration felt it was a matter of national security, the Department of Defense could command the use of the space shuttle (as is the case with all national assets).

With regards to satellite's fuel reserves, the shuttle has been used to launch spacecraft with hydrazine tanks (e.g. Galileo) thus it can land with them, not to mention that the orbiter has its own hydrazine. The hydrazine aboard NROL-21 is, for the moment, safely contained within its own tank, regardless its frozen state.

Were a means to grasp and stow the satellite in the shuttle's payload bay developed, assuming it could fit in the payload bay, then it could presumably be returned without risk to the crew.

However, as the shuttle is primarily no longer used to service satellites since the loss of Challenger, with only a few exceptions including Hubble, it is not rare for satellites to be designed and launched without on-orbit repair or recovery as an option. Hubble was designed to be visited by the shuttle in order to upgrade and swap out its instruments. Generally speaking, communication, GPS and even reconnaissance satellites (presumably) are intended to be expendable if the break.

micropooz
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posted 02-20-2008 06:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Good comments Steve and Robert. I would add that even though the hydrazine in this satellite is frozen solid, that in itself produces a new hazard to retrieval. Like water ice, when hydrazine freezes, it expands. And if the hydrazine froze in some of the propellant lines, they could be ruptured by the expansion. So if, after all of the retrieval obstacles that Robert mentioned above were overcome, you could still have thawed hydrazine leaking all over the Orbiter payload bay after landing - a very unsafe condition.

spaceman1953
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posted 02-20-2008 07:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceman1953   Click Here to Email spaceman1953     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
According to various news agencies, the three ships are known: USS Lake Erie, USS Decatur and USS Russell, and the USS Lake Erie will fire the intercept.
Yes, I saw that on a website just after I posted that!

Don't know why, if they were going to announce the names of the ships involved, why they could not do it sooner.

stsmithva
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posted 02-20-2008 07:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
However, as the shuttle is primarily no longer used to service satellites since the loss of Challenger...
Thank you, I'll do some clarifying tomorrow. But I am curious about what you wrote above. It shows my ignorance of shuttle missions, but why did the Challenger disaster bring a halt to shuttle crews repairing things in orbit? That was one of the big reasons to build the shuttle- that they would be able to capture billion-dollar satellites that had become worthless car-size pieces of space junk and bring them back to life. It's not like Challenger was destroyed while repairing a satellite.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-20-2008 07:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by micropooz:
...you could still have thawed hydrazine leaking all over the Orbiter payload bay after landing - a very unsafe condition.
A very good point (though if time wasn't such a concern and if you could overcome all the other issues with using the shuttle, I would think that NASA/DoD engineers could develop a way to minimize the risks associated with the thawing fuel).

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-20-2008 07:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by stsmithva:
...why did the Challenger disaster bring a halt to shuttle crews repairing things in orbit?
On August 15 1986, President Reagan announced that "NASA will no longer be in the business of launching private satellites," except for those which were shuttle-unique or have national security or foreign policy implications. At the time, 44 commercial satellites had been scheduled for launch by the shuttle.

The Rogers Commission had identified "the relentless pressure to increase the flight rate" as a major contributing factor to the Challenger accident. To reduce that rate, the decision was made to offload commercial satellite operations to the (yet to be fully defined) commercial launch industry.

So while Reagan's decision didn't put a halt to satellite servicing (such as Intelsat on STS-49), it did refocus shuttle activities on science and (eventually) space station construction.

SpaceAholic
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posted 02-20-2008 08:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
With regards to satellite's fuel reserves, the shuttle has been used to launch spacecraft with hydrazine tanks (e.g. Galileo) thus it can land with them, not to mention that the orbiter has its own hydrazine. The hydrazine aboard NROL-21 is, for the moment, safely contained within its own tank, regardless its frozen state.
What is unknowable given loss of TT&C and the nature of the casualty would be the health and integrity of the tank(s), any pyrotechnics and the safing of the thrusters themselves, actuators for payload deployment, etc. Depending on the formulation of Hydrazine it may also be hypergolic which presents far greater challenges to handling /transport in the shuttle bay then monopropellant fuel.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-20-2008 09:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Department of Defense: Pentagon Opens Window of Time to Shoot Down Satellite
The Pentagon has opened the window of time in which it will shoot down a malfunctioning U.S. reconnaissance satellite, a senior U.S. military officer said here today.

Today's return of the space shuttle Atlantis to Earth prompted the start of the optimal time period for shooting down the satellite, which extends until about the end of the month, the senior officer told Pentagon reporters.

Only "tens of seconds" will be available each day for a favorable launch of a ship-based SM-3 interceptor missile, the senior officer said. "The window is small, ...but we're looking for the best orientation of the satellite" before launching the missile, the officer explained.

Also: Defense Department Background Briefing on the Satellite Intercept Attempt

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-20-2008 09:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SPACE.com: Spy Satellite's Destruction Might Be Visible
Debris from the Department of Defense's planned shoot-down of a spy satellite may be visible to skywatchers in the northwestern United States and Canada, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Although it's hard to predict what will happen if the rocket succeeds in impacting the satellite, there is a chance that observers will see broken-off pieces of the satellite reflecting sunlight or burning up as they fall through Earth's atmosphere. The window of opportunity for the attempt is open for the next 10 days or so, though bad weather and high seas make it unlikely the exercise will occur today.

"There is a possibility that if someone were to have clear skies in the Pacific Northwest or Canada, they might see some of the debris," said Geoff Chester, public affairs officer for the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. "We just don't know. If the debris does enter the atmosphere then it's actually quite possible to see it anywhere along the ground track of the satellite."

rjurek349
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posted 02-20-2008 09:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for rjurek349   Click Here to Email rjurek349     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's a hit -- according to CNN.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-20-2008 09:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Associated Press:
A missile launched from a Navy ship successfully struck a dying U.S. spy satellite passing 130 miles over the Pacific on Wednesday, a defense official said. Full details were not immediately available. It happened just after 10:30 p.m. EST.

Two officials said the missile was launched successfully. One official, who is close to the process, said it hit the target. He said details on the results were not immediately known...

Officials said it might take a day or longer to know for sure if the toxic fuel was blown up.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-20-2008 10:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Department of Defense release
Missile Hits Decaying Satellite Over Pacific

A network of land-, air-, sea- and spaced-based sensors confirms that the U.S. military intercepted a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite which was in its final orbits before entering the earth's atmosphere.

At approximately 10:26 p.m. EST today, a U.S. Navy AEGIS warship, the USS Lake Erie (CG-70), fired a single modified tactical Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) hitting the satellite approximately 247 kilometers (133 nautical miles) over the Pacific Ocean as it traveled in space at more than 17,000 mph. USS Decatur (DDG-73) and USS Russell (DDG-59) were also part of the task force.

The objective was to rupture the fuel tank to dissipate the approximately 1,000 pounds (453 kg) of hydrazine, a hazardous fuel which could pose a danger to people on earth, before it entered into earth's atmosphere. Confirmation that the fuel tank has been fragmented should be available within 24 hours.

Due to the relatively low altitude of the satellite at the time of the engagement, debris will begin to re-enter the earth's atmosphere immediately. Nearly all of the debris will burn up on reentry within 24-48 hours and the remaining debris should re-enter within 40 days.

DoD will conduct a press briefing at 7 a.m. EST to provide further information related to the operation. The briefing can be viewed live on Defenselink.com through the Pentagon Channel.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-20-2008 11:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
CNN is reporting (based on unknown sources) that NROL-21 has broken into 80+ pieces.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-21-2008 12:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Report via Royal Astronomical Society of Canada [via SeeSat-L]:
About 30 people, PG Centre members and public, witnessed what we assume was the demise of the spy satellite USA 193.

Many debris trails were witnessed moving from south-west to north-east at high altitude. One was especially bright and long lasting. I can recall about 6 bright trails and 15 fainter ones.

The debris trails seemed to come in "waves" with the first wave being brighter than the debris that followed behind it. The trails seemed to be in a fan shape with the trails being wider apart in the north-east than they were in the south-est.

gliderpilotuk
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posted 02-21-2008 06:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
not to mention that the orbiter has its own hydrazine.
Is this what was venting from the APUs after landing?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-21-2008 08:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by gliderpilotuk:
Is this what was venting from the APUs after landing?
Hydrazine and nitrogen (as well as ammonia vapor), which is why the orbiter is not approached until the APUs are shutdown, and even then, only by a safing team to insure the system is not leaking.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-21-2008 08:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Department of Defense imagery

The modified Standard Missile-3 fired on Feb. 20 from USS Lake Erie at NROL-21.

Video stills of the impact between the missile and the National Reconnaissance Office satellite. CNN has the video.

ejectr
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posted 02-21-2008 08:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ejectr   Click Here to Email ejectr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
GO NAVY!

bravoblues
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posted 02-21-2008 08:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for bravoblues   Click Here to Email bravoblues     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
MSN reports that Secetary Gates spoke to Gen. Kevin Chilton where he told Gates it was a go for the attempt. Gates then gave the order to launch. Ex Shuttle Commander makes world news again.

SpaceAholic
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posted 02-21-2008 09:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ejectr:
GO NAVY!

And Raytheon (who builds the Missile)!

SpaceAholic
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posted 02-21-2008 03:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Federal Emergency Management Agency: First Responder Guide for Space Object Re-Entry

jeffbassett
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posted 02-22-2008 11:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jeffbassett   Click Here to Email jeffbassett     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Interesting read on the FEMA document.

spaceman1953
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posted 02-22-2008 03:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceman1953   Click Here to Email spaceman1953     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There was a telephone call to a talk radio show from a truck driver... was waiting to load or unload at one of his customers and was told there would be a delay, because there were FEMA contracted trucks waiting to load there to carry supplies toward the west coast in case they were needed.

The driver would not be specific about the nature of the cargo that was being loaded, but said he was told this by HIS supervisors, not by the people at the loading company.

Of course, none of this can be verified, but made for interesting talk radio.

Guess we proved that we can do what we claim we can do... one TV news report late the night of the shootdown, said "Mission Accomplished"... I wondered where that famous large banner was?!?!

Good job, needless to say, to all involved! And Thanks!

NAAmodel#240
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posted 03-03-2008 08:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NAAmodel#240   Click Here to Email NAAmodel#240     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Are freeze related Hydrazine expansion issues due to a lack of electricity to power heaters?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-03-2008 09:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by NAAmodel#240:
Are freeze related Hydrazine expansion issues due to a lack of electricity to power heaters?
Yes, as Gen. Cartwright explained during the pre-intercept media briefing:
To take it just a little bit further, hydrazine, in this case -- normal case is that when it's used as rocket fuel, it's in a gaseous state. We bring it up to a liquid state with heaters. This has had no benefit of heaters because there's no power on the bird. So this is a frozen state of hydrazine, which leaves for us another unknown: how much of it would melt on the reentry, therefore would be in either a liquid or gaseous phase.

SpaceAholic
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posted 03-03-2008 09:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think he's got it backwards... augmentation heaters would be used to bring the hydrazine to a gaseous state (assuming its being used as a mono propellant) from liquid and to prevent the propellant from freezing.


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