The launch is a second test of new technology called the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon under development by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command. According to the Army’s environmental assessment, a three-stage booster rocket will propel an experimental long-range vehicle meant to glide at hypersonic speed (faster than Mach 5) from the upper atmosphere to a landing in the Marshall Islands.
A first test of the system took place on Nov. 17, 2011, launching from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii.
In an article on the Army website www.army.mil, Jason B. Cutshaw wrote, “The conical-shaped AHW is designed to meet the demanding environments and operations of Continental United States-based systems capable of global strikes. As a precision glide body flying at supersonic speeds, the AHW can deliver a variety of payloads at medium and global ranges.”
Alaska Aerospace Corporation, the state-owned operator of the complex about 30 miles south of Kodiak city, has not announced a more precise day or time for the launch. According to an announcement from Alaska Aerospace, a roadblock east of the Pasagshak boat launch will prevent public access to KLC starting 12 hours before the launch.
Exclusions will also apply to nearby land areas, ocean areas and airspace around the time of the launch, according to the environmental assessment.
The last rocket launch from Kodiak took place Sept. 29, 2011, when a Navy telecommunications satellite successfully reached orbit.
Before that, the main customer for services at the Kodiak facility was the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, which launched target drones to test interceptors fired from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. MDA ended its contract with Alaska Aerospace in 2010, opting to launch target drones instead from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
By phone from Huntsville, Alabama, SMDC spokesman John Cummings said the coming Kodiak launch is not related to MDA projects.
"We are an Army organization," he said. "There's a distinction there."
The booster for the upcoming test will be a type of Strategic Target System, or STARS rocket, also used for the eight MDA launches from Kodiak. Two of those launches failed, in November 2001 and May 2007, according to the website www.astronautix.com.
SMDC also operates the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site in the Kwajalein Atoll.
Cummings said SMDC has no specific plans for more launches from Kodiak.
"Right now this is a one-time (contract)," Cummings said.
A link to the complete environmental assessment is at www.kodiakdailymirror.com.
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