Integrated Flight Test advances National Missile Defense program

Army SMDC PAO - 1/23/98

The National Missile Defense (NMD) deployment readiness program scored another success on Jan. 15. The second flight test of a candidate infrared sensor – this one built by Hughes (now Raytheon) – went off without a glitch. The test proved the ability of the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) sensor to identify and track objects in space. An intercept was not intended for this mission.

A Payload Launch Vehicle (PLV), built by Lockheed Martin and topped with the EKV sensor, launched from the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s (SMDC’s) Kwajalein Missile Range in the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the central Pacific Ocean. The sensor payload included an optical seeker, data processing system, and telemetry. The seeker and data processing systems are the eyes and brain of the EKV, letting it intercept an attacking intercontinental ballistic missile. Approximately 20 minutes before the PLV launch, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s Multi-Service Launch System (MSLS) target missile was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., carrying a number of simulated threat objects.

The test was conducted by the NMD Joint Program Office of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, supported by elements of the U.S. Army NMD Program Office in Huntsville, Ala., and the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command. The target launch team consisted of representatives of the Ballistic Missile Targets Joint Project Office of the SMDC, the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Sandia National Laboratories, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, and Teledyne Brown Engineering.

The major Raytheon EKV component is a multiple-waveband infrared seeker made up of a focal plane array and a cryogenic cooling assembly at the end of an optical telescope. During the first integrated flight test June 23, 1997, a Rockwell (now Boeing) sensor took part in a highly successful mission. Both EKV contractors have also begun to procure hardware for an actual intercept attempt scheduled for late FY98 and early FY99. After each company has performed an intercept test, one of the EKV designs will be selected for an NMD integrated system test scheduled for late 1999.

 The SMDC target system consists of an MSLS front section built by Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, Colo. The booster is a U.S. Air Force three-stage Minuteman II missile. The system is silo-launched carrying a payload of nine target objects built by Sandia National Laboratories.

During the test, some NMD surrogates and a number of support resources were employed. These included an early warning radar and X-band dish radar (West Coast), Global Positioning System, Launch Support Services and Up Range Tracking (Western Test Range, Vandenberg), Mid-Range Tracking (Hawaiian Islands), Down Range Tracking and Interceptor Launch Support Services (Kwajalein), SMDC’s Airborne

Surveillance Testbed, and the Range Interface Test Equipment.

These flight tests will establish a capability for incremental test maturity and inclusion of system elements, as they become available, into a test structure that will ultimately evolve into a full NMD Integrated System Testbed. Current plans for the NMD

program include developing over the next two years the technology necessary to deploy a system. At the end of that period, a decision could be made on deployment of the system based on a potential threat to the United States from a ballistic missile attack.