Thursday, August 02, 2007

US Suffers String of Space-Spying Setbacks

The outer limits of incompetence?

While China and other countries make great strides in a broad spectrum of military and intelligence-related space technologies, the United States is apparently reeling from failure to failure in this costly but crucial field.

For example, the National Reconnaissance Office has deemed an experimental US spy satellite a total loss and will allow it to slowly drop from orbit and burn up in the atmosphere, according to Reuters.

The classified L-21, built by Lockheed Martin Corp at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, was launched on December 14 but has been out of touch since reaching its low-earth orbit, put by satellite watchers at about 220 miles above the earth.

It will now gradually fall out of orbit over the coming decades. At some later date, it will burn up as it enters the earth's atmosphere, posing no danger to people below.

Separately, said Reuters, two US military satellites used to monitor ship movements failed to reach their correct orbit when they were launched several months ago aboard an Atlas V rocket.

Officials are reportedly now trying to "nudge" the satellites into the correct orbit by using small amounts of the fuel onboard.