Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Minuteman III ICBM launches from Vandenberg, AFB

Minuteman III lifts-off from the California coastline today. (USAF)

A Minuteman III missile with an unarmed re-entry vehicle was launched on a test flight this morning from Vandenberg, AFB in California.

Fog and low visibility combined with a communication link issue delayed the planned night time lift-off into the early dawn giving spectators along the coastline a beautiful view.

As the seconds ticked down, the launch closure door which seals the silo slid open and six seconds later, the first stage ignited sending the missile up and arcing west.

The sixty-foot tall Intercontinental Ballistic Missile departed it's silo at 6:34:59 a.m. PDT (9:34 a.m. EDT), from launch facility 10 on the northern section of Vandenberg.

The solid fueled first stage provides nearly 210,ooo pounds of thrust at launch, and burns for one minute. The solid fueled second stage burns for the next minute.

Soaring up into sub-orbital space and westward out over the Pacific Ocean, the Minuteman III's dummy warhead aimed for a trageted splashdown near the Marshall Islands.

"Minuteman III test launches demonstrate our nation's ICBM capability in a very visible way, deterring potential adversaries while reassuring allies," stated mission director Col. David Bliesner. "These launches provide valuable information on the missile's effectiveness in its intended operational environment."

The United States launched the first test flight of a Minuteman III in 1968, and the missile became operational in 1970.

The next test flight of a Minuteman III is targeted for July 27.

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