The U.S. Navy succeeded in its effort to shoot down an inoperable spy satellite before it could crash to Earth and potentially release a cloud of toxic gas, the Department of Defense said Wednesday.
e first opportunity for the Navy to shoot down the satellite came about 10:30 p.m. ET Wednesday. The plan included firing a missile from the USS Lake Erie in the Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii to destroy the satellite.
"A network of land-, air-, sea- and space-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," a Department of Defense statement said.
"At approximately 10:26 p.m. EST today, a U.S. Navy AEGIS warship, the USS Lake Erie, fired a single modified tactical Standard Missile-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."
It was unknown whether the missile hit its precise target -- the satellite's full fuel tank. The Department of Defense said it wouldn't know for certain for 24 hours whether the fuel tank had been hit. However, several defense officials told The Associated Press the missile did apparently destroy the fuel tank.