Space and astronomy news and information for the American Southwest. Coverage includes Vandenberg AFB rocket and missile launches.

Minuteman III Launches from Vandenberg

Vandenberg AFB News Release

2006 February 16

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched from Launch Facility-10 on North Vandenberg at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

The launch was part of a test to demonstrate the ability to integrate modified products into existing weapon systems.

"The purpose of the flight was to verify the Minuteman III's ability to carry the safer and more accurate Mark 21 warhead, originally designed for the Peacekeeper missile," said Lt. Col. S.L. Davis, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander.

The missile's single unarmed re-entry vehicle traveled approximately 4,800 miles in about 30 minutes, hitting a pre-determined target at the Kwajelin Missile Range in the western chain of the Marshall Islands.

Col. Jack Weinstein, 30th Space Wing commander, was the spacelift commander. Colonel Davis was the mission director.

"This launch was an outstanding display of teamwork, proving once again that we are the best at what we do," Colonel Weinstein said. "Our team worked tirelessly to ensure 100-percent mission success in our first Minuteman III launch of the year."

Several weeks prior to the launch, members of the 576th FLTS processed and prepared the missile for the launch with support from the 30th SW, Colonel Davis said.

"Hundreds of different measurements were taken before and during the missile's flight, including such things as nozzle position, temperatures, velocities, issuance of commands, etc.," Colonel Davis said.

The data collected will be used by the entire ICBM community, including the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy.

The reliability and accuracy data will also be used by United States Strategic Command planners to ensure effective employment of the Minuteman III, should it be required.

"The data collected from these missions is used to ensure a safe and reliable ICBM force, making each launch a critical element in our nation's defense," Colonel Weinstein said. "The men and women of Vandenberg will continue to perform each mission flawlessly."

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