Vandenberg completes first launch of year

Vandenberg Air Force Base successfully participated in a U.S. Air Force test launch of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile from North Vandenberg's Launch Facility-10 to the Ronald Reagan Test Site near the Kwajalein Atoll in the western chain of the Marshall Islands February 7, 2007.  The launch was part of an operational test to determine the weapon system’s reliability and accuracy.  This was Vandenberg's first launch of the year.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. William Greer)

Vandenberg Air Force Base successfully participated in a U.S. Air Force test launch of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile from North Vandenberg's Launch Facility-10 to the Ronald Reagan Test Site near the Kwajalein Atoll in the western chain of the Marshall Islands Feb. 7. The launch was part of an operational test to determine the weapon system’s reliability and accuracy. This was Vandenberg's first launch of the year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. William Greer)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The 30th Space Wing successfully completed its first launch of the year, an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, at 12:14 a.m. today from Launch Facility-10 on North Vandenberg.

The launch was part of an operational test to demonstrate the weapon system's reliability and accuracy.

The missile's single unarmed re-entry vehicle traveled approximately 4,200 miles before hitting their pre-determined targets at the Reagan Test Site located in the Marshall Islands.

Vandenberg conducts regular tests of the Minuteman weapon system. The missiles are brought in from various bases around Air Force Space Command to be operationally tested. The missile tested today was sent in from Minot AFB, N.D.

Col. John Riordan, 595th Space Group commander, came to Vandenberg from Schriever AFB, Colo., to view the test process.

"We could not conduct these nationally important tests without the outstanding support from the 30th SW; most notably the Airmen from the 30th Logistics Readiness Squadron, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron, 30th Space Communications Squadron and the 2nd Range Operations Squadron," he 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.

Lt. Col. S. L. Davis, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander, was the mission director for this launch.

"While it can seem routine, each launch test requires considerable time and effort from the 200-plus Airmen in the 576th FLTS," said Colonel Davis. "As a result, USSTRATCOM planners will be able to more effectively employ the nation's ICBM force should it be required."

One significant change for the test was the launching of the missile with the launch closure doors closed. The launch closure doors have been left open for launches in the past to reduce the cost of the test. However, this left the launcher unprotected against the environment. The doors being closed also has an affect on the accuracy of the missile.

"This test was more challenging than most with our return to activating the 120-ton launcher closure door. This change improves operational realism of the test and will result in improved weapon system accuracy data," Colonel Davis said.

Col. Jack Weinstein, 30th Space Wing commander, was the spacelift commander. The spacelift commander is the final go-for-launch authority.

"An outstanding display of teamwork ensured 100-percent mission success for the first west coast launch of the year," Colonel Weinstein said. "We constantly focus on flawless execution of our launch, range and expeditionary missions. I am extremely proud of the collaboration between the 30th SW and the 576th FLTS."

Minuteman III Launch Video