The Missile Defense Agency has completed another step in the evolution of the Terminal (in case you missed it, the name was changed from Theater to Terminal) High Altitude Area Defense interceptor missile. A Nov. 22 test firing of the latest interceptor—the Block 2004 design—did not pit THAAD against a target ballistic missile, but, officials say, it demonstrated “proper” launch from its canister; validated booster, kill vehicle, and shroud separation dynamics; and provided an opportunity to test its divert and attitude control system of small rocket motors that maneuver the KV into a target’s path. Officials also say the demonstration, which took place at White Sands Missile Range, N.M, starts a new round of development testing. THAAD entered engineering, manufacturing, and development (EMD) following completion of two successful target vehicle intercepts in 1999.
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.