Friday, February 29, 2008

NOTAM warns aircraft of decaying USA 193 debris (updated again 02/03)

John Locker brought a new chapter to the attention in the ongoing USA 193 soap story, by pointing to a NOTAM released by the US FAA here on the Satobs list. The text of this NOTAM:

8/5536 - SPECIAL NOTICE .. THIS NOTAM REPLACES FDC 8/5501 DUE TO ADDITION OF CONTACT NUMBER. EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY UNTIL 0803092300 UTC. AIRCRAFT ARE ADVISED THAT A POTENTIAL HAZARD MAY OCCUR DUE TO REENTRY OF SATELLITE USA-193 DEBRIS INTO THE EARTHS ATMOSPHERE. FURTHER NOTAMS WILL BE ISSUED IF MORE INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE. IN THE INTEREST OF FLIGHT SAFETY, IT IS CRITICAL THAT ALL PILOTS/FLIGHT CREW MEMBERS REPORT ANY OBSERVED FALLING SPACE DEBRIS TO THE APPROPRIATE ATC FACILITY TO INCLUDE POSITION, ALTITUDE, TIME, AND DIRECTION OF DEBRIS OBSERVED. FAA HEADQUARTERS, AIR TRAFFIC SYSTEMS OPERATIONS SECURITY, 202-493-5107, IS THE FAA COORDINATION FACILITY. WIE UNTIL UFN


This is weird. I cannot think of any real danger to aircraft by the decay of small fragments of USA 193 debris. Most will burn up well above the flight altitude of aircraft. Those that don't, will be rare and not a real concern in my humble opinion. Moreover, hadn't "they" told us the danger was gone after they successfully shot it to bits?

The Public Relations behind this whole operation is bizarre, from start to end. I am at a loss to understand what is going on behind the scenes here. It is becoming a soap story.

Reading the NOTAM carefully, it seems actually to be more about trying to get information about where something might have come down, then that it really concerns the "danger" to aircraft. The latter merely appears to be the "vehicle", just as the hydrazine "danger" was in the argument to shoot USA 193. Perhaps some component wasn't that destroyed after all and they are after it. And no, that will not be the hydrazine tank.

UPDATE: Strike that last remark. One of the commenters to the topic on the Bad Astronomy blog here has managed to dig up the actual date of issue of this NOTAM. That appears to be Feb 20th, so before the ASAT strike. Which means it is clearly not the result of a debris-analysis made after the ASAT strike.

Still the issueing of this NOTAM remains weird. It does indicate that for some reason, they want to keep track of where debris comes down. Something among it has their interest.

Oh dear: that "they" sounds awfully conspiratory, isn't it? I apologize....and assure you I don't wear tinfoil hats... ;-)

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