Vandenberg, Missile Defense Agency complete successful interceptor test

Even under austere weather conditions in two locations, Vandenberg Airmen and the Missile Defense Agency successfully launched an interceptor missile during a test of the system Sept. 1.

Even under austere weather conditions in two locations, Vandenberg Airmen and the Missile Defense Agency successfully launched an interceptor missile during a test of the system Sept. 1.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Working with the Missile Defense Agency, Airmen at Vandenberg accomplished a list of historic firsts Sept. 1 with the successful launch of an interceptor missile from the Ronald W. Reagan Missile Defense site here. 

The first interceptor launch from a Vandenberg MDA silo came after close to 20 months of preparation and testing here. 

"This was a huge launch for us," said Col. Jack Weinstein, 30th Space Wing commander and spacelift commander for this launch. "The entire wing was mobilized and worked together flawlessly to make this a successful mission." 

Vandenberg supports MDA in three distinct areas in their test program, Colonel Weinstein explained to a civic leader group last month. 

"We provide quality assurance on the operational interceptors. We support MDA test events through the 1st Air and Space Test Squadron and the Western Range, closely work with MDA on test issues and provide mission support to include civil engineering, security and communications." 

A successful launch from a Vandenberg silo was only one of the firsts accomplished Sept. 1. 

It was also the first time MDA used their new missile assembly building on the central coast base. 

"Using the missile assembly building meant more stringent processing," said 2nd Lt. Thomas Stromberg, 1st Air and Space Test Squadron. "It goes to the minute detail, of if there's a piece of lint on the floor we have to find out where it came from." 

The orbital booster; the one used on the interceptor is similar across many platforms, safety and mission support measures were similar to previous launches, but many aspects of the launch were different and new. 

"This launch was very unique and the first of its kind on our range," said 1st Lt. Ryan Thomas, 2nd Range Operations Squadron range control officer. "Just to name a few, this was the first time we've had two vehicles launching while simultaneously running multiple countdown procedures, the first time we've flown digital GPS on a vehicle off of the range and the first time we coordinated with and reported status on a very large number of ships and aircraft supporting out over the ocean." 

Master Sgt. Michael Keating, 2ROPS aerospace control officer, spent hours organizing air, land and sea vessels to ensure both passenger and cargo vehicles were not in the area during the launch. 

"We coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration and closed over 220,000 square miles of air space over the Pacific Ocean, so we could safely accomplish the intercept without posing a risk to commercial and cargo aircraft enroute between Hawaii and the continental U.S.," Sergeant Keating said. 

Working with the new aspects this launch was a real test for the Vandenberg team.
It was the first time we've launched this vehicle and the first time we worked with a mission director at the Joint National Integration Center." 

"There was more change in a faster time then any other program," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Haymond, 1st ASTS commander. "We did that well. 

Working with the JNIC allowed for more information flow using both unclassified and classified lines of communication for the Vandenberg team. 

MDA quickly deemed the launch a success. Vandenberg members were integral to that success. 

"Other systems can not be successful without us," said Colonel Haymond. "It's a joint program and we are integral to making other entities successful with our professionalism." 

Mr. Chester DeCesaris, deputy program director for Ground-Based Mid-Course Defense, agreed with Colonel Haymond. 

Mr. DeCesaris told reporters: "This is the real thing, a real operational system and the people at Vandenberg are very good at this (launching)," said Mr. DeCesaris
They are the best in the business," he added.