Interceptor Missile Test

From: Tom Wagner (
Date: Sun Jul 15 2001 - 11:09:13 PDT

  • Next message: Robert Oler: "Re: Interceptor Missile Test"

    I have two questions about the following incident that I am sure some people
    on this list can answer.
    [An interceptor missile was recently launched from Kwajalein 21 minutes
    after its target, a modified Minuteman II intercontinental-range missile
    equipped with a mock warhead, roared toward the heavens from a launch pad
    4,800 miles away at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
    At 11:09 p.m. EDT, exactly the scheduled moment of collision between the
    interceptor and the warhead, an enormous white flash appeared at the planned
    impact point 144 miles above the earth's surface.
    Navigating by the stars and by information transmitted from a ground station
    on Kwajalein, the interceptor's 120-pound weapon known as a "kill vehicle,"
    rammed the mock warhead. The force of impact [[[[obliterated]]]] the
    warhead, thus the term "hit-to-kill," as distinct from other approaches such
    as detonating an explosive in the flight path of the target.]
    My questions are as follows. (1) When this sort of thing happens, does it
    spray bits of material into orbit, adding to the array of debris that the
    shuttle and other objects may run into?  (2) Would it produce a lot of
    visible ion trails as even the relatively small bits and pieces reenter the
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