Northrop Grumman Begins Testing 'Cold-Launch' System That Makes Kinetic Energy Interceptors Mobile, Global, Flexible
A key part of this system -- the solid propellant gas generator -- was successfully tested Dec. 18 at Alliant Techsystems (NYSE:ATK) facility in Elkton, Md. ATK supplies the gas generator, and Raytheon Company (NYSE:RTN) participated as the team's lead for interceptor development.
"The gas generator provides the energy needed for steam- or gas-launched missiles that will give KEI a land-based defensive capability that could be transitioned easily to sea-based platforms," noted Anthony Spehar, vice president and KEI program manager for Northrop Grumman's Space Technology sector. "The test measured chamber pressure, temperature and propellant burn duration, all of which were within expectations."
Northrop Grumman is developing the cold-launch system for KEI based on those it has supplied for U.S. Navy submarines since the 1950s as well as those used on silo-based Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missiles. That work is underway at company facilities in Sunnyvale, Calif.
"Eject or cold launch technology is a proven approach used on Navy submarines for many years," Spehar noted. "Using this very safe technology, we can launch large or highly energetic missiles, such as KEI, because only a small amount of propellant is needed to eject the interceptor compared with igniting the first stage rocket motor."
Featuring the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's newest high-acceleration booster, KEI's launch system is designed to eject an interceptor about 200 feet in the air before the first stage rocket motor ignites. For KEI, about 70 pounds of propellant is ignited in the gas generator to eject the approximate 25,000-pound missile.
During the next several weeks, data will be analyzed and will be used to validate design, performance and analytical models. Two additional gas generator tests are planned at different temperatures within the upcoming months, followed by simulated breach assembly tests in 2009, which introduces a steam coolant system. Two simulated missile eject test demonstrations are planned for 2010.
KEI is designed to be a globally deployable, mobile missile defense system. The production system will feature state of the art components: a highly maneuverable kill vehicle carried by a very fast acceleration/maneuverable missile that is cold gas launched from a mobile platform and guided by a unique new sensor fusing and fire control capability. This integrated weapon system provides a persistent (24/7), all weather capability to destroy intermediate and intercontinental ballistic missiles in their boost to midcourse phases of flight. news @NorthropGrumman