In the greater world stage of unspoken dialogue, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency just may not be waiting in the wings any more.
MDA finally executed what officials say is a flight of the Ground-Based Missile Defense system in which "all components performed as designed."GMD is the ballistic missile defense system created to protect the homeland from an attack, primarily from North Korea.
The GMD flight took place Jan. 26 at 2:00 pm Pacific time from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. This flight lacked a target and intercept attempt. It was designed to "flyout" the capabilities of the booster and EKV Capability Enhancement 2 upgrade. This EKV CE 2 was to blame for one of two target misses in 2010, prompting MDA to halt GMD testing pending review and fixes. At least one factor was vibration impacting the propulsion system.
While a legacy version of GMD -- including a three-stage Orbital booster and a Raytheon Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle -- has remained on alert, the upgraded version of this hit-to-kill mechanism has been grounded for two years.
The last successful intercept of the three-stage GMD took place in December 2008; in the meantime North Korea has refined its missile and nuclear technologies.
MDA experts will assess telemetry from the test and compare it against models to understand whether the EKV CE 2 fixes addressed earlier problems.
Ultimately, MDA hopes to conduct an intercept attempt between March and June using the upgraded kill vehicle. This will be a retest of the failed intercept attempt in December 2010.