Feeds

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

Fails to get in way of hurtling simulated nuke

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Ex-Soviet engines fingered after Antares ROCKET launch BLAST
Speculation rife, but Orbital claims it's too early to tell
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
NASA: Spacecraft crash site FOUND ON MOON RIM
'What fun!' exlaims NASA boffin who found the LADEE
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
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.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
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?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.