Robert Gates declares Wednesday night’s anti-satellite strike a success. The defense secretary made the comment Thursday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The official reason the U.S. military offered for its show of fireworks Wednesday night high above the Pacific was to shoot down, using an anti-satellite missile, a failed spy satellite before it might do damage upon reentry. However, not everyone read the skywriting that way.
The US denies the operation was a response to an anti-satellite test carried out by China last year, which prompted fears of a space arms race.
US officials had said that without an attempt to destroy the fuel tank, and with the satellite’s thermal control system gone, the fuel would have been frozen solid, allowing the tank to resist the heat of re-entry.
If the tank were to have landed intact, it could have leaked toxic gas over a wide area - harming or killing humans if inhaled, officials had warned.
The US has denied that it shot down the satellite to prevent parts of it from falling into the hands of foreign powers.