The first test of a U.S. anti-satellite weapon against a target in space is imminent, Administration officials said Tuesday, and it could come as early as this afternoon.
The target, an old U.S. Navy satellite no longer in use, will be passing in orbit several hundred miles above the test range between California and the Pacific island of Kwajelein when the ASAT weapon is fired at it from a special F-15 fighter jet.
If successful, the weapon, a two-stage rocket, will home in on heat waves emitted by the target and crash into it at a speed of about 500 miles a minute, according to some estimates. The collision is expected to destroy both the weapon and the target.
On Aug. 20, the Administration announced its revised plan to fire the ASAT weapon at a real satellite after technical difficulties delayed launching of a special target balloon that was to be placed in orbit for the shot.
Congress directed the Administration to wait at least 15 days after the announcement to conduct the test. Today is the 15th day.