Feeds

Pentagon spends $442m on 'multiple kill' space interceptors

Smart swarms to eliminate ICBM 'threat clusters'

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The US Missile Defence Agency has assigned a further $442m for work on "multiple kill vehicles", designed to let a single American interceptor rocket destroy several orbital targets. The multi-kill capability is seen as vital if the nascent US missile shield is ever to become a credible defence.

Friday's contract award was to Raytheon, to work on their MKV-R concept. Rival US aerospace'n'weapons behemoth Lockheed are also developing a suborbital kill-swarm package, MKV-L. Both schemes would use an interceptor rocket stack to lob a package of "exo-atmospheric kill vehicles" up into the path of objects on suborbital or low-orbital trajectories. The kill vehicles would then separate out, each getting in the way of a different target and so destroying it as much by its own kinetic energy as by that of the interceptor.

Here's a nifty concept vid courtesy of the missile defence people and YouTube:

As the vid explains, Raytheon favour a distributed command system where any of the smartkill modules can be in charge. Lockheed prefer a more conventional setup with a "carrier" command vehicle using a telescope detector directing its accompanying swarm of space kamikaze droids. The idea is that if one plan doesn't work, the other still might.

The objects destroyed would normally be warheads, decoys and so forth - a "threat cluster" - launched by the ICBMs of sinister enemy powers. However, as was shown this summer, a working exo-atmospheric kill vehicle can also quite easily knock out a satellite in low orbit.

The idea of the MKVs is to deal with one of the great weaknesses of the current US missile-defence arsenal, which deploys only single kill vehicles. An ICBM can launch multiple warheads and multiple decoys, meaning that the US might need scores of interceptor rocket stacks to deal with a single enemy missile launch. That's a game not even America can afford to play. But working MKVs could ease the numbers somewhat, letting the defence forces cope with a small enemy missile fleet - if not a major one like that of Russia, able to fill the skies with "threat clusters" tens of thousands strong.

However, the MKV is far from reality yet; and while the Standard naval interceptor seems to work quite well, the heavier and higher-flying landbased mid-course jobs have a shadier reputation. There are many in America who doubt the value of the entire missile defence concept.

With a new Democratic president soon to enter the White House, more Democrats in Washington and a financial crisis gathering steam, the missile shield may find its cash flow a bit tighter quite soon. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Spies, avert eyes! Tim Berners-Lee demands a UK digital bill of rights
Lobbies tetchy MPs 'to end indiscriminate online surveillance'
How the FLAC do I tell MP3s from lossless audio?
Can you hear the difference? Can anyone?
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.