Defunct spy satellite expected to hit Earth the first week of March

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Parts of a dead U.S. spy satellite in a deteriorating orbit are expected to survive a fiery reentry and hit the Earth the first week of March.

It's not known where on Earth the satellite will hit. But officials familiar with the situation say about half of the 5,000-pound spacecraft is expected to survive its blazing descent through the atmosphere. It's expected to scatter debris, some of it potentially hazardous, over several hundred miles.

The satellite is outfitted with thrusters, small engines used to position it in space, that contain the toxic rocket fuel hydrazine. Hydrazine can cause potentially serious harm to anyone who contacts it.

The satellite, known by its military designation US 193, carried a sophisticated and secret imaging sensor and U.S. officials do not want this equipment to fall into the wrong hands.

Where it lands will be difficult to predict until the satellite descends to about 59 miles above the Earth.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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