US delays missile-zapping laser test for 4th time

An intercept test of a missile-destroying laser aboard a converted Boeing Co 747 aircraft has been postponed for a fourth time because of technical problems.

US delays missile-zapping laser test for 4th time

An intercept test of a missile-destroying laser aboard a converted Boeing Co 747 aircraft has been postponed for a fourth time because of technical problems, the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency said.

"Troubleshooting indicates that a hot bypass valve on the aircraft is in an abnormal condition, thus not allowing for proper component cooling," the agency said in a statement on its website. "The team is evaluating the potential causes."

The test involving the Airborne Laser Test Bed was to have taken place Sunday morning off the California coast. A new date for the experiment will be set for the coming week, the announcement said.

The goal is to destroy a simulated enemy ballistic missile in flight more than 100 miles away, or about twice the range demonstrated in a maiden test on Feb. 11 using a chemical oxygen iodine laser aboard the jumbo jet. The laser heats the boosting ballistic missile's skin, weakening it and causing failure from high-speed flight stress.

The previous postponements took place over roughly the past three weeks. They were attributed by the agency, in turn, to a problem with a stand designed to hold the target before launch, a tracking system software glitch and, on Tuesday, a problem with a tracking camera's cooling system that prompted a system reboot.

The successful test in February prompted calls on the Pentagon to restore funding for further development of the system. Defense Secretary Robert Gates cut it to a research effort last year from a development program headed for possible deployment.

Boeing, the prime contractor, said in February that the system's initial success, in a test against a short-range missile in its boost phase, had "blazed a path for a new generation of high-energy, ultra-precision weaponry." Some experts have said it could have potential use against enemy fighter aircraft, cruise missiles or even low-earth orbit satellites.


Reuters

Last Mod: 22 Ağustos 2010, 15:38
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