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Release No: 831-03
November 07, 2003

Missile Defense Agency Booster Rocket Program

The Department of Defense announced today the results of an assessement of two separate manufacturing process-related accidents in August and September 2003 at Pratt & Whitney’s missile propellant mixing facility in San Jose, Calif. These incidents affected three key components of the Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) missile defense development effort, as well as other DoD programs. MDA is currently finalizing its evaluation of potential impacts to the overall missile defense development program, but for the near-term, the program most affected is a booster rocket for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS).

The three-stage booster, in development by Boeing Co. subcontractor Lockheed Martin, uses propellant mixed at the San Jose facility for its second and third stages. MDA implemented a dual-booster development strategy more than two years ago as a risk reduction measure. As a result, a proven boost vehicle built by Boeing subcontractor Orbital Sciences will provide the booster rockets necessary for GMD deployment of up to 10 ground-based interceptors at Ft. Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on the existing schedule, and for at least four boost vehicles for planned flight tests.

Orbital's booster configuration is a derivative of the company's flight-proven Pegasus, Taurus and Minotaur space launch vehicles, designed to be ground-launched from an underground silo. Two successful flight tests of the booster have been conducted this year from Vandenberg Air Force Base, and two integrated flight tests designed to validate system performance are scheduled to take place from the Reagan Test Site, Kwajalein Atoll, in early 2004.

Lockheed Martin will continue its development program as a subcontractor to Boeing as soon as possible, and is scheduled to conduct a flight test of its booster configuration from Vandenberg Air Force Base later this year. MDA remains committed to a dual-booster strategy, and will continue to work closely with Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Orbital Sciences to ensure effective, high-performance launch vehicles are available for operations and testing of the GMD element in order to provide an active defense against long-range missile attack.

The other two missile defense components affected by the accidents are the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), a ground-based interceptor missile being developed for the Army, and the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) sea-based interceptor now in development for use by the Navy aboard Aegis-class warships. Both interceptors are designed to intercept and destroy short to intermediate range ballistic missiles. MDA is finalizing its evaluation of the long-term impacts to these two BMDS components, but projections indicate there is no schedule impact to the first THAAD intercept flight test scheduled for 2005. There could be a delay of a few months to THAAD first flight (non-intercept test) in 2004. There are currently 40 rocket motors in the inventory for the SM-3. MDA and the Navy are assessing these motors to support SM-3 requirements for future operations and testing.

MDA point of contact is Rick Lehner, MDA Communications, at (703) 697-8997.

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