US plans to shoot down broken satellite with missile

US President Bush decided to fire a military missile to bring down a broken spy satellite because of the potential danger to people from rocket fuel it is carrying, officials, quoted by an Associated Press report said.

Deputy National Security Adviser James Jeffries, briefing reporters at the Pentagon, did not say when the attempted intercept would be conducted, but the satellite is expected to hit Earth during the first week of March, the Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report quoted Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as saying that the 'window of opportunity' for such a shootdown, presumably to be launched from a Navy ship, will open in the next three or four days and last for seven or eight days.

He did not say whether the Pentagon has decided on an exact launch date, the report said.

He said a Navy missile known as Standard Missile 3 would be fired in an attempt to intercept the satellite just prior to it re-entering Earth's atmosphere, the report said.

It would be 'next to impossible' to hit the satellite after that because of atmospheric disturbances, Cartwright said.

A second goal, he said, is to directly hit the fuel tank in order to minimize the amount of fuel that returns to Earth.

Cartwright also said that if an initial shootdown attempt fails, a decision will be made whether to take a second shot.