Feeds

Son of Star Wars test aborted

Target missile doesn't make target

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The latest test of the Pentagon's controversial space ICBM interceptors has been aborted after the target failed to work.

The target rocket took off from the launch site in Alaska on Friday, but according to the head of the Missile Defence Agency, it "did not reach sufficient altitude to be deemed a threat, and so the ballistic missile defense system did not engage it".

ICBM simulating rocket

STARS target rocket taking off from the launch site in Alaska

The rockets used to simulate enemy ICBMs in Missile Defence tests are assembled by Sandia National Labs, using surplus Polaris first and second stages with a commercial Orbus third stage. Polaris was the original American submarine-launched ICBM, dating from 1955, and went out of US service in the early 80s. The obsolete rockets are "refurbished" for use as Strategic Targets System (STARS) clay pigeons by Missile Defence, but it's perhaps not surprising that such an old bird has suffered a mishap.

The test has been widely reported as a failure for the Pentagon's Missile Defence Agency (MDA). Many Reg readers have also suggested that previous postponements due to bad weather at the Kodiak Island target launch site indicate a lack of puissance on the part of the missile shield. It's important to note that the only weakness exhibited by the postponements and Friday's aborted test is in the targets, not the defences.

Even so, the MDA will no doubt be smarting somewhat. This was the first test where operational interceptor systems rather than protoypes were to have been used. It would have been a useful demonstration of the space-interceptor kit's viability, if successful.

Riki Ellison, of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, told Reuters that "we need more demonstrations of the capability and this just delays this".

Reuters also quoted the MDA's spokesman Rick Lehner as saying that the retread Polaris' unplanned plunge into the Pacific "reinforces the need" to deploy mid-course interceptors in Poland.

Lehner reportedly suggested that missiles launched by Iran could similarly go astray and land in Europe, even if Europe was not Iran's target.

If that's what Lehner actually said, he would seem to have wandered off his script just a tad. It's reasonable enough to suggest that a Shahab/Taepodong ICBM might take off from Iran aimed at the USA and suffer a defect causing parts of it to crash in Europe. However, it isn't terribly plausible that the missile warhead(s) would function as designed in that event. And exactly how mid-course interceptors - designed to stop ICBMs outside the atmosphere - based in Poland would help in such a case is even less apparent.

What does seem clear is that with funding for the initial interceptor deployment in Eastern Europe struggling to make it past Capitol Hill, the MDA will be wishing it had some more reliable ICBM targets to hand. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.