- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2003

U.S. spy satellites are taking high-resolution photographs to help locate debris from the Space Shuttle Columbia, Defense Department officials said yesterday.
The images of the doomed spacecraft's flight path are being used by the National Aeronautical and Space Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pinpoint pieces of the shuttle that disintegrated when returning from space Saturday, said Defense officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A spokesman for the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) declined to comment on the use of satellites to support shuttle recovery.
Other officials said the satellite support is being used for both recovery efforts and the investigation of how the spacecraft disintegrated on re-entry to the atmosphere Saturday morning.
In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, NIMA satellites photographed areas around the structures to assess damage.
Three types of intelligence satellites are involved in the shuttle work.
One is the top-secret KH-12 photo-reconnaissance satellite, which has produced detailed pictures of the path of debris from a distance of about 300 miles in space.
The second type is the Defense Support Program satellites, known as DSP. Data from DSP satellites will be useful in investigating the disaster. DSP satellites use infrared sensors and are used to detect missile launches around the world as part of the U.S. early-warning system.
Two military commands are involved. The U.S. Strategic Command, at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., is in charge of the satellites supporting the NASA-led investigation. The Strategic Command "supported the National Imagery and Mapping Agency in producing imagery for debris-field analysis," a fact sheet produced by the command stated.
Also, the Air Force Space Command, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., is helping to coordinate the satellite data collected at the time of the accident "for the purposes of reconstructing the events surrounding the accident in assisting investigators," the fact sheet stated.
"We're offering any support NASA needs, including DSP and any and all data and imagery we have that would aid the investigation," said a Strategic Command spokesman.
The new Northern Command, which is responsible for homeland security, also is helping with aircraft and organizing local military support, such as 466 Texas National Guard soldiers involved in the search.
John Pike, a satellite specialist with GlobalSecurity.org, said in an interview that the investigators also will be using the Global Positioning System navigation satellites to help locate and map debris.
"Imagery satellites could help with debris fields," Mr. Pike said. "You might be able to get debris fields in 100 frames."
Four F-15 jets from the Louisiana Air National Guard in New Orleans helped with locating debris immediately after the shuttle went down. An E-3 Airborne Warning and Control Aircraft also took part along with several other aircraft from other bases.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide