The Air Force launched an unarmed Minuteman III ICBM April 2 from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., as part of the regular series of quarterly flights to validate the weapon system’s reliability and accuracy. The missile’s re-entry vehicle traveled approximately 4,200 miles to its pre-determined impact point at the Reagan Test Site in the Marshall Islands, according to a Vandenberg release. As part of the mission, a newly redesigned component of the missile’s flight termination system flew for certification. “Minuteman III flight testing is critical because it’s the only way to obtain data on weapon system reliability, accuracy, and performance from first stage ignition to RV impact,” said Lt. Col. Lesa Toler, commander of the 576th Flight Test Squadron. She said the mission “met our test objectives.”
Reports of production troubles on the SpaceX rocket that could contend for military cargo deliveries happened to coincide with a different company’s concept receiving an early nod—one that might not require a rocket at all.