Feeds

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

Fails to get in way of hurtling simulated nuke

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
LOHAN Kickstarter push breaks TWELVE THOUSAND POUNDS
That's right, folks, you've stumped up OVER 9,000 beer tokens - and counting
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
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.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.