The troubled kill vehicle for the United States' principal homeland long-range antimissile system received a boost on Saturday when a flight test indicated that fixes to the component were working, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said in a press release.
The test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system was carried out from Vandenberg Air Force base in California and involved launching an interceptor equipped with a "modified" Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, the release states. After being directed to a programmed area of space by the three-stage booster rocket, the EKV component successfully demonstrated a number of prechoreographed steps designed to gather technical information on how it operates in the vacuum of space.
Information collected from the trial will be used to further examine the suitability of improvements to the EKV component. Early assessments of the test are that all parts of the system behaved as intended.
Saturday's flight test of the GMD system sets the stage for a follow-up live missile intercept trial sometime between April and June, according to previous statements by the Pentagon branch. The last two attempted test intercepts by the long-range missile defense system were unsuccessful. A malfunctioning hit-to-kill vehicle was determined to be the reason for the last intercept test failure in December 2010.