Dear Members and Friends,
The Missile Defense Agency yesterday released the following statement on the cause of failure of the last Ground Based Intercept test on December 15, 2010, as well as their corrective action.
“The Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) successfully selected the correct target object, but a guidance error occurred in the final seconds before the planned intercept. As a result, the EKV did not intercept the target warhead. Extensive ground testing and modeling have demonstrated with high confidence the source of the failure. The EKV’s guidance system had a fault related to outer space-related dynamic environments which caused the EKV to fail in the final seconds of the test. There is no indication of any quality control problem as the cause of the failure.”
“Corrective design steps are being pursued and tested on the ground and during a non-intercept Ground Based Interceptor (GBI) test scheduled for late next spring to confirm resolution. Following a successful non-intercept test, the previously failed intercept test will be repeated later next year. The first generation EKVs now deployed in Alaska and California do not have this design issue.”
Based on the statement above, a likely scenario is that the high vibration of the small rocket thrusters of the EKV in a space environment caused a last second guidance error. This can be easily fixed and resolved by reducing the vibration, dampening the thrusters, and adding software to adjust the guidance to the vibration.
The failure of this newer generation EKV is clearly not about its technical and engineering merit to track, select, and engage an incoming warhead amongst debris at extremely high speeds in space; it is just a slight modification flaw that could not be tested or predicted on the ground and can be easily fixed, tested in space, and upgraded on all those ground based missiles that have this second generation EKV.
The American public and our homeland that these Ground Based Interceptors (GBIs) protect looks forward to the successful conclusion of two upcoming flight tests next year of our Ground-based missile defense system based in Alaska and California, as proposed by the Missile Defense Agency.