Testing, Testing . . .

By John Liang / June 7, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Missile Defense Agency over the weekend had a two-stage, Ground-Based Interceptor successfully perform every action short of intercepting an actual target missile, according to an MDA statement.

The interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, at 3:25 p.m. Pacific time yesterday.

The two-stage rocket was originally meant to be the main weapon deployed to Europe to help defend the region against the Iranian ballistic missile threat, but the Obama administration in 2008 shifted its focus to using sea- and land-based versions of the Standard Missile-3.

Consequently, the two-stage vehicle is being developed as a hedge against the possibility of the administration's "phased adaptive approach" not working or experiencing delays. Specifically, according to the MDA statement:

The two-stage GBI is undergoing developmental testing as part of the Department of Defense’s strategy to invest in a new missile defense option which can contribute to our homeland’s defense. Results from the test will characterize two-stage performance and design for potential future missile defense applications.

A target missile was not launched for this flight test. After performing flyout maneuvers, the two-stage booster delivered an exoatmospheric kill vehicle to a designated point in space. The exoatmospheric kill vehicle is the component that, if a target missile were present, would collide directly with the threat warhead to perform a “hit to kill” intercept. After separating from the second-stage booster, the kill vehicle executed a variety of maneuvers to collect data to further prove the performance of the kill vehicle in space.

Several missile defense assets and emerging technologies observed the launch and gathered data for future analysis. Participants included the Space Tracking and Surveillance System, AN/TPY-2 X-band Radar, and the Upgraded Early Warning Radar at Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

Initial indications are that all components performed as designed. Program officials will evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.