Feeds

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

Fails to get in way of hurtling simulated nuke

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
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.