News

Two Successful Suborbital Rocket Launches
SSDC News Release
Prepared 3 Mar 97
Gerda Sherrill

The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) and the U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command (SSDC) announced two successful completions of suborbital rocket launches under the Theater Missile Defense (TMD) Critical Measurements Program (TCMP). The flight tests took place on February 22 and March 1 from Wake Island to the U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll missile range in the mid-Pacific.

For the launches, a 50-foot long, 28,500 pound single stage booster was used, built by Orbital Sciences Corporation and consisting of a Castor IVB rocket motor, a flight termination/separation module, a guidance control and avionics module, and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Lincoln Laboratory payload . A variety of reentry experiments were deployed, including a fly-away sensor package (FASP), reentry vehicles, and decoys.

The objective of the TCMP campaign is to collect radar and optical data on a variety of possible tactical ballistic missile threats, information that would, in turn, be used in the design of TMD interceptor and sensor systems. The program will provide data immediately useful to systems such as THAAD, PATRIOT, and Navy Area Defense.

During the tests, from deployment in the exoatmosphere to reentering the atmosphere, both optical and radar data were collected on the missiles and their payloads. The expended Castor IVB booster was segmented into four pieces prior to reentry. In addition to the USAKA range radars and the FASP deployed from the booster, numerous surface and airborne sensors also were present during the missions. Direct TMD elements participating in the tests included PATRIOT, THAAD, Aegis, and Expeditionary Area Defense System. Other sensors or sensor platforms collecting data included the Airborne Surveillance Testbed, Cobra Ball, and the High Altitude Observatory/Infrared Instrumentation System.

The TCMP campaign had two previous flight tests, on July 15, 1996, and January 28, 1993 - both were also highly successful. The experiment on March 1 and the payloads it carried were designed to test specific aspects of the THAAD radar. In addition to being the last of three missions in this TCMP campaign, it was also designated as one of the THAAD radar system tests.

TCMP is managed and conducted for BMDO by SSDC's Sensors Directorate. Also greatly involved is the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. USAKA is responsible for the difficult logistics of these complex missions.