The Missile Defense Agency's (MDA) ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) flight test, designated Integrated Flight Test 9 (IFT-9), involving the planned intercept of a long-range ballistic missile target previously scheduled for Aug. 24, 2002, will be postponed approximately 30 to 45 days. The postponement is due to concerns about the exhaust nozzle seal of the first and second stage rocket motors of the two-stage ground-based interceptor (GBI) that was being readied for launch at the Reagan Test Site, Kwajalein Atoll, in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
Ground testing on Aug. 16 revealed a potential problem with the nozzle, which is located at the bottom of the modified Minuteman II rocket motors, and moves in order to steer the GBI after it is launched. Subsequent investigation revealed that the nozzle seals might be damaged. The Minuteman II boosters, which are more than 30 years old, serve as a surrogate booster rocket for the GBI. This booster system will only be used for one more intercept test after IFT-9 before it is replaced by a modern three-stage booster system. Since the GBI was already installed in its launch silo at the Reagan Test Site, it will be necessary to remove the missile from the silo in order to replace the rocket motors. These motors will be delivered to the test site in the next few weeks.
IFT-9 will be the seventh intercept test of the developmental GMD flight test program. The six previous tests have resulted in four successful intercepts, the last three of which were fully integrated tests involving all interceptor, radar, sensor, communications and battle management elements to detect, locate, track and use "hit to kill" technology to collide with a target warhead approximately 140 miles above the earth, traveling at a speed of more than 15,000 miles per hour.
News media points of contact are Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, MDA External Affairs, at (703) 697-8997 or Cheryl Irwin, Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs, at (703) 697-5331.