Russia closely monitoring US satellite with N-material: Def Min

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Moscow, Feb 16 (UNI) Russia is closely tracking a US spy satellite that has gone out of control and might have nuclear material on board.

''The Russian Defence Ministry is using its space surveillance systems to track the satellite's movement in orbit,'' a high-ranking anonymous defence official told RIA Novosti news agency yesterday.

First deputy chairman of the State Duma parliamentary Defence Committee, Igor Barinov also expressed concern over the US unilateral decision to destroy the satellite, saying Russian military experts suggest the satellite could have an on-board nuclear power source.

''Decisions, which could jeopardise collective security, should be made taking into account all sides concerned and all countries involved in space research,'' said Mr Barinov.

The satellite was launched in 2006 and malfunctioned almost immediately. On board is around 1,000 pounds of propellant fuel (hydrazine), a hazardous material.

The US Defence department said last Thursday it would shoot down the decaying satellite, which it earlier considered to be of low risk.

It said the chances that the uncontrollable US experimental satellite to hit a populated area were small, but the potential consequences would be of enough concern to consider mitigating actions.

The US officials said it will attempt to shoot down the satellite using a Navy Standard Missile 3.

The satellite would be shot down after the space shuttle Atlantis, which is in the orbit, completes its mission and lands next week.

NASA officials do not want to risk sending debris into the path of shuttle, they said.

US President George W Bush has authorised the destruction of the satellite using a sea-to-air missile within the next few days.

UNI XC PD PM1235

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