Department of Defense Public Affairs
Memorandum: No. 005-M January 17, 1997

A planned test of an Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) sensor in support of the National Missile Defense (NMD) program did not take place last night when the Payload Launch Vehicle (PLV) carrying the EKV failed to launch from Kwajalein Missile Range in the western Pacific Ocean. No intercept of a target was to be attempted for the test.

A Multi-Service Launch System (MSLS) carrying target objects for the sensor test successfully launched from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., at approximately 8:18 p.m. EST. Preliminary indications are that the target launch vehicle performed as expected. However, target analysis is ongoing. The PLV was scheduled to launch from Kwajalein approximately 22 minutes after the MSLS launch, but the PLV launch was stopped after ground software detected a power system failure and automatically prevented the launch during the final countdown. Early analysis indicates that an unknown malfunction occurred during the transition from external power to the PLV's internal power system. Program officials are investigating the cause of the problem, and have determined when another test will be scheduled.

This was to be the first test of the EKV sensor, built by Rockwell International (now Boeing). Its purpose is to identify and track a variety of target objects released in space by the MSLS. The EKV sensor payload includes an optical seeker, data processing system and telemetry. The seeker and data processing systems are the eyes and the brain of the EKV, enabling it to intercept an attacking intercontinental ballistic missile. A competing EKV sensor built by Hughes Aircraft is scheduled for a test in May, and program officials are assessing the impact on this test.

Besides the EKV, the PLV consists of an upper stage assembly and refurbished second and third stage rocket motors from an Air Force Minuteman II missile. The PLV is produced by Lockheed Martin Space and Missile Company under contract to the U.S. Army. The NMD program is managed by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.