The Missile Defense Agency will conduct a test of a ground interceptor booster on Sunday morning at Vandenberg Space Force Base, in an effort to provide more flexibility to the system.
The 03 or BVT-03 booster check test will take place between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. from an underground silo on the north base.
The military has warned the sailors to stay out of the area off the coast of the northern part of the sprawling base.
“The Vandenberg team has a long history of working with our Missile Defense Agency partners to ensure safe launch operations for missile defense testing,” said Col. Robert Long, commander of Space Launch Delta 30, which will also give the final authorization for the launch.
“It is an honor for Space Launch Delta 30 to work with our mission partners on this important national security test,” Long added.
Missile Defense Agency officials did not respond to questions Noozhawk asked for details of the upcoming test.
This test was once scheduled for 2020, but has been delayed until now due to the availability of ground interception hardware and software, according to the Government Accountability Office’s report “Fiscal Year 2020 Delivery and Testing Progressesd, But Annual Goals Unmet ”.
The test is part of the ground-based mid-term defense system designed to defend against a limited long-range missile attack.
The ground interception thruster carries the high-tech “exoatmospheric destruction vehicle”, designed to search for and destroy an incoming weapon using guidance data from ground control systems and on-board sensors.
However, this test would apparently not include an attempt to intercept a fictitious target.
The Missile Defense Agency is developing the ability to launch ground interceptors, or GBIs, using two stages, instead of the existing three stage mode, said Navy Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill, director of the ‘Missile Defense Agency, to the House Armed Services Committee. Strategic Forces Subcommittee in June.
“MDA is also developing the ability to provide the fighter with the ability to fly the GBI using a 3-stage combustion trajectory or not fire the third stage to provide performance similar to a 2-stage propulsion vehicle.” Hill said.
“This approach will improve home defense performance by optimizing engagement times,” Hill added.
After demonstrating the capability during testing, MDA officials hope to implement the capability on all of its booster vehicle configurations.
The mid-point ground defense segment has boosters on alert in Vandenberg and Alaska, although critics have questioned its effectiveness.
“The GMD system serves as the permanently available backbone of the homeland missile defenses and is capable of defending against the current ballistic missile threat from rogue states to the homeland,” Hill said.
The plans continue to modernize various aspects of GMD, Hill added.
“We plan to upgrade and replace the ground system infrastructure, fire control and vehicle kill software to improve reliability, capacity, availability and cybersecurity. The entire GMD weapon system is currently under a Life Extension Program (SLEP), focusing on the reliability and availability of the GBI, ”he said.
“We will incorporate lessons learned from flight tests into future GBI fleet upgrades while modernizing key components of ground systems,” Hill added.
Sunday’s missile defense test is one of four launches planned from Vandenberg this month.
Last week, Firefly Aerospace launched its Alpha rocket, but the launch failed more than two minutes after takeoff.
Vandenberg also scheduled a Space Exploration Technologies Falcon 9 rocket launch from the base on Monday morning.
And the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is targeting September 23 for its NASA mission to put a Landsat 9 Earth observation satellite into orbit.