Pentagon Tests Missile Defense Booster

Arms Control Today, October 2001 | Go to article overview

Pentagon Tests Missile Defense Booster


On August 31, the Pentagon conducted the first flight test of the booster to be used in the proposed U.S. ground-based missile defense system. Boeing, the lead private contractor for the defense. system, declared the long-delayed flight a success.

According to Boeing and the Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), which oversees U.S. missile defense programs, the booster was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California; its three stages separated properly; and it splashed down west of Hawaii after reaching a maximum altitude just shy of 500 kilometers. The booster test was originally supposed to take place in February 2000, but the schedule slipped repeatedly because of delays in development.

The test did not involve an intercept attempt, and the booster did not carry an exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV), which is the element of the proposed missile defense system that actually seeks out and collides with a target in outer space. In the four intercept tests of the defense system to date, the Pentagon has used a surrogate booster less powerful than the one tested August 31 to lift the EKV into space.

In this latest test, the booster carried a mass representative of an EKV, and sensors measured the stresses put on the mass by the booster's acceleration. …

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