Feeds

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

Smart swarms to eliminate ICBM 'threat clusters'

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
Uber, Lyft and cutting corners: The true face of the Sharing Economy
Casual labour and tired ideas = not really web-tastic
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
Don't even THINK about copyright violation, says Indian state
Pre-emptive arrest for pirates in Karnataka
The police are WRONG: Watching YouTube videos is NOT illegal
And our man Corfield is pretty bloody cross about it
Oz biz regulator discovers shared servers in EPIC FACEPALM
'Not aware' that one IP can hold more than one Website
prev story

Whitepapers

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup
Learn why inSync received the highest overall rating from Druva and is the top choice for the mobile workforce.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.