20.2.08

FIRE ON THE UPROLL, MR HORNBLOWER. Naval gunners still face that challenge.

The Pentagon counted down Wednesday toward an unprecedented effort to shoot down a dying and potentially deadly U.S. spy satellite, using a souped-up missile fired from a ship in the Pacific.

The timing was tricky. For the best chance to succeed, the military awaited a combination of favorable factors: steady seas around the Navy cruiser that would fire the missile, optimum positioning of the satellite as it passed in polar orbit and the readiness of an array of space- and ground-based sensors to help cue the missile and track the results.

That's more challenging than calling the layline from ten miles out in an offshore race. The Navy claim a hit, although there is not conclusive visual evidence that the fuel tank is broken.

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