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Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Test Fire Kinetic Energy Interceptor Motor

By | September 18, 2006

      Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] and Raytheon Co. [RTN} test fired the stage 1 motor for the Kinetic Energy Interceptor, Northrop announced.

      This test marks the second in a series of risk-reduction ground firings for the KEI rocket motors that will lead to the first KEI booster flight test in 2008.

      KEI is a mobile missile-defense system that, when deployed, will be able to destroy a hostile threat during its boost, ascent or early midcourse phase of flight.

      Built by teammate ATK Launch Systems Group in Promontory, Utah, the first-stage rocket motor ignited properly and fired for a full-duration burn, demonstrating proof-of-concept of the first-stage rocket motor for this high-acceleration, high-velocity and highly maneuverable missile.

      Lt. Gen. Henry A. “Try” Obering warned recently that the KEI acceleration must improve, heading toward the crucial 2008 flight test. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, Aug. 21, 2006, page 1.)

      Initial results from the recent test matched expectations for performance and integrity, according to Northrop.

      Using the detailed data collected from this first of five Stage 1 ground tests, the team will continue to make adjustments to optimize design performance. The rocket motors provide the high acceleration and velocity to allow the KEI interceptor to deliver the unique capability to intercept long-range ballistic missiles in multiple phases of flight.

      “This test, combined with the successful test of the Stage 2 motor earlier this year, proves that both KEI booster stages have exceptional performance,” said Craig Staresinich, vice president and general manager for the Northrop Grumman KEI program.

      “Our team has effectively applied mature, flight-proven technologies in a new way to produce a highly maneuverable, high-acceleration missile that can meet the boost/ascent or early midcourse path of an enemy missile.

      “Achieving this milestone ensures that we are on track for the program and verifies our approach to mission assurance in building and deploying this important system for our nation.”

      Northrop Grumman is leading the team charged with developing and testing a KEI capability under contract to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

      Raytheon leads the interceptor development work for the KEI program with ATK as its principal subcontractor responsible for performing the Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 rocket- motor development work. Teammate Orbital Sciences developed the thrust vector actuators, which steer the rocket motor nozzles to ensure high-performance control of the missile in flight.

      Over the past two years, the KEI testing program has met several critical proof-of-concept milestones for both the hardware and software to mitigate risk. These include successful completion of the Stage 2 static-motor firing earlier this year, four successful tests, ahead of schedule, of the system’s battle-management capability, and several successful high-speed wind tunnel tests.

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