Feeds

Missile defence FAIL: US 'kill vehicle' space weapon flunks test

Fails to get in way of hurtling simulated nuke

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The US Missile Defence Agency has suffered another embarrassing failure in a live test conducted last week over the Pacific.

An Exo-Atmospheric Kill Vehicle. Credit: MDA

What a space-combat weapon actually looks like.

The trial saw a medium-range ballistic missile target lift off from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall islands, simulating an attack on the United States. The missile was was detected and tracked by the famous (and famously buggy) Sea Based X-band Radar, a large scanner mounted on a mobile oil-rig: this part of the exercise went without problems.

A Ground Based Interceptor (GBI) triple-stage rocket was launched from Vandenberg Airforce Base in California, the US military's main space base. Apparently the triple-stage GBI itself worked properly, depositing an Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV, pictured) in the path of the oncoming missile warhead.

What should have happened then is that the EKV should have used its small manoeuvring thrusters to get itself directly in the warhead's way. The combined many-thousands-of-mph velocities imparted by the rocket stacks of the missile and the GBI would then do the rest.

However, a Missile Defence Agency statement says that the MDA "was unable to achieve a planned intercept of a ballistic missile target", despite the deployment of the EKV being carried out "successfully".

"Program officials will conduct an extensive investigation to determine the cause of the failure to intercept the target," adds the MDA.

The expensive GBIs are supposed to be the most capable tool in the MDA's armoury, and are the only ones rated to knock out enemy warheads during the highest middle section of their ballistic flight. Under President Bush, the USA planned to site some of them, plus an X-band tracking radar, in Eastern Europe.

But the GBIs have a spotty test record – the naval Standard SM-3, which is launched from a destroyer or cruiser at sea and can also deploy an EKV into space, is considered more reliable. The SM-3 successfully destroyed a crippled US spy satellite in low orbit above the Pacific in 2008, and since the Obama administration decided against the European GBI deployment there have been suggestions that a land-based version of the SM-3 could perform similar tasks. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
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.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.