(AMP) — International observers say that three missing American spy
satellites bolster Russian accusations that the United States is
mounting a secret military expedition in Antarctica in violation of
Russian scientists in March detected a "seismic event"
in the vicinity of an alleged American military base in Antarctica just
hours before a huge chunk of ice twice the size of Delaware broke off
from the Ross Ice Shelf. (Seismic Map) The U.N. Security Council is trying to determine whether the U.S. is conducting nuclear tests in violation of the Antarctic Treaty — a charge the U.S. has denied.
the March 23 event, however, no known spy satellites have passed over
the affected area. That suggests to some observers that one or more of
the missing U.S. satellites may be watching.
American spy satellites were launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in
California last year and disappeared after only a few weeks in their
initial orbits," said one American scientist who spoke on condition of
anonymity. "In fact, they may have been moved into secret orbits over
Antarctica so they can carry out their covert duties without being
strikes are usually mounted immediately before a spy satellite passes
overhead, so the damage can be recorded before the enemy — or natural
phenomena — can cover it up. The recent activity has raised new
questions over whether the U.S. is merely tracking seismic events in
Antarctica or causing them.
U.S. Air Force acknowledged the disappearance of three spy satellites
last year from their initial orbit, claiming they malfunctioned and
were destroyed. But engineers closely associated with the American
intelligence community remain skeptical.
U.S. spy satellites are usually left in orbit," said a systems engineer
with Lockheed Martin Corp., which in 1998 saw one of its Titan 4A
rockets self-destruct less than a minute after launch. The 20-story
rocket was believed to be carrying a top-secret $1 billion spy
satellite for the Air Force. "Furthermore, high-profile failures like
this typically prompt protests from congressional leaders who monitor
U.S. intelligence gathering. That has not happened."
instead suggest the satellites were placed into orbits that would move
them more slowly across the skies than other high-altitude spy cameras,
giving them more time to photograph targets.