In the midst of the Cold War, the U.S. began to develop anti-satellite aircrafts to combat Russia’s vast space expansion. This F-15 footage from 1985 is the first time they succeeded.
The ASM-135 ASAT is an air-launched anti-satellite multistage missile that was developed by Ling-Temco-Vought’s LTV Aerospace division. The ASM-135 was carried exclusively by the United States Air Force (USAF)’s F-15 Eagle fighter aircraft.
On 21 December 1982, an F-15A was used to perform the first captive carry ASM-135 test flight from the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards AFB, California in the United States.
On 20 August 1985 President Reagan authorized a test against a satellite. The test was delayed to provide notice to the United States Congress. The target was the Solwind P78-1, an orbiting solar observatory that was launched on 24 February 1979.
On 13 September 1985, Maj. Wilbert D. “Doug” Pearson, flying the “Celestial Eagle” F-15A 76-0084 launched an ASM-135 ASAT about 200 miles (322 km) west of Vandenberg Air Force Base and destroyed the Solwind P78-1 satellite flying at an altitude of 345 miles (555 km).
Prior to the launch the F-15 flying at Mach 1.22 executed a 3.8g zoom climb at an angle of 65 degrees. The ASM-135 ASAT was automatically launched at 38,100 ft while the F-15 was flying at Mach .934. The 30 lb (13.6 kg) MHV collided with the 2,000 lb (907 kg) Solwind P78-1 satellite at closing velocity of 15,000 mph (24,140 km/h).
Retired Major General Doug Pearson (left) and Captain Todd Pearson joke together on September 13, 2007, prior to Captain Pearson taking off on the Celestial Eagle remembrance flight commemorating the successful launch of an ASM-135 against a satellite 22 years earlier.
NASA learned of U.S. Air Force plans for the Solwind ASAT test in July 1985. NASA modeled the effects of the test. This model determined that debris produced would still be in orbit in the 1990s.
It would force NASA to enhance debris shielding for its planned space station.
Earlier the U.S. Air Force and NASA had worked together to develop a Scout-launched target vehicle for ASAT experiments.
NASA advised the U.S. Air Force on how to conduct the ASAT test to avoid producing long-lived debris. However, congressional restrictions on ASAT tests intervened