Mid-July missile launch to test system, no hit planned
Article published on Wednesday, Jun 11th, 2008
By ERIK WANDER
It’s all systems go for the upcoming missile launch at the Kodiak Launch Complex in Narrow Cape, but it may prove difficult for residents who want to witness the event.
Alaska Aerospace Development Corp. conducted a tour of its approximately $150-200 million facility for a group from Anchorage on Tuesday. AADC provides services and facilities for the government’s Missile Defense Agency, AADC’s only customer, to conduct test launches.
The launch of the STARS missile will take place in mid-July as part of MDA’s regular training.
In an operation of this type, a missile is launched from Kodiak and destroyed by an interceptor missile launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
“We are the clay pigeons,” said Dale Nash, CEO of AADC. “The surest way to kill something is to just smash it.”
He said that the target missile launched from Kodiak simulates one coming from Asia or Russia, because such a missile would fly directly over Alaska.
AADC aerospace engineer Shad Combs said a series of such tests, conducted a couple of times a year, has already been completed successfully. They’re now preparing to do another with the hope of building on what has been learned in previous launches.
“We’re making it smarter and smarter and smarter. Every time we do one test, we incorporate our lessons learned into the following test,” Combs said.
The July launch will differ from previous launches, however, because there will be no interceptor missile. It is what Combs referred to as a “target-only launch.”
“It’s going to be an imaginary interception. The interceptor will not launch, but everything will happen except for that,” he said.
The purpose of the non-target mission is to test the instrumentation and systems to make sure they can pick up the incoming missile and predict how they would intercept it.
“It just goes out and it splashes into the ocean. We’re not short for targets, we’re short for interceptors,” Combs said.
Further details of the launch remain sketchy due to the sensitive nature of the classified mission. AADC would say only that it will take place in mid-July. Combs said, however, that a notice to airmen and a notice to fishermen would be released prior to the launch defining restricted areas. AADC will also close the road leading to the facility.
Members of the public will not be able to view the launch up close because of the road closure. Combs said this was not a security measure.
“It’s not for security,” he said. “It’s strictly for safety. The roadblock gives us enough space, so that if something goes wrong with the missile, the population is safe.”
Combs suggested Chiniak as a possible location for those who wish to try to catch a glimpse or take pictures of the launch.
“Other than that, because of the mountains, once it clears the mountains, it’s into the mist, it’s into the clouds,” he said.
Mirror writer Erik Wander can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.