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September 13, 1996
For Immediate Release

MSX Successfully Observes Dedicated Ballistic Missile Flight

The Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX), a Ballistic Missile Defense Organization satellite launched in April to gather data for future space- and ground-based missile defense systems, has tracked and observed the first dedicated ballistic missile flight of its planned five-year mission.

As the single highest priority data collection event of the mission, the MSX Dedicated Target (MDT-II) experiment was conducted Aug. 31, 1996, to perform functional demonstrations and collect radiometric signature measurements of targets on a ballistic trajectory. Launch of the Strategic Target System (STARS) booster was at 15:41 UT (11:41 a.m. EDT) from the Kauai Test Facility, Barking Sands, Kauai, the Hawaiian Islands.

The target complex included the Operational Deployment Evaluation Simulator (ODES) post-boost vehicle -- which carried a radio frequency (RF) beacon transmitter to enable closed-loop tracking with the MSX spacecraft RF beacon tracker -- and 26 midcourse objects to be deployed by the ODES vehicle.

Impact was in the Pacific Ocean north and east of the Kwajalein Atoll on the Kwajalein Missile Range. The approximately 20-minute flight was viewed by MSX in a north-south pass, with a ground trace west of the Hawaiian Islands and east of Kwajalein, and by a number of ship-, air-, and ground-based sensors and radars.

Program officials report that the primary MSX sensors collected more than 800 seconds of high-quality data that is now undergoing detailed analysis. Booster and post-boost vehicle performance were nominal, as was the trajectory. Twenty-five objects were deployed, and all support sensors and ground-based radars functioned nominally.

"The MDT-II mission has been extremely successful," said Lt. Col. Bruce D. Guilmain, MSX Program Manager at BMDO. "The STARS/ODES system performed almost flawlessly. The MSX satellite collected data with all of its sensors, and the MSX program will satisfy all of its objectives for this target mission."

The observatory-class MSX satellite was launched on April 24, 1996, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., into a high-inclination, circular, near sun-synchronous Earth orbit at 561 miles (903.5 kilometers) altitude. Round-the-clock operations are being conducted from The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) in Laurel, Md. JHU/APL also built the MSX spacecraft.

MSX is the first system demonstration in space of technology to characterize ballistic missile signatures during the "midcourse" flight phase between booster burnout and missile reentry. During its lifetime, MSX will detect, track, and discriminate realistic targets against terrestrial, Earth limb, and celestial backgrounds. The satellite's imaging capabilities will also support a wide variety of "dual-use" research involving global atmospheric change, astronomy, and space contamination and debris.

MSX is capable of observations over a wide range of wavelengths, from the very-long infrared to the far-ultraviolet. It represents a pioneering use in space of hyperspectral imaging technology. The spacecraft incorporates five primary instruments consisting of 11 optical sensors. All sensors are precisely aligned so that simultaneous observations with multiple sensors can be made, which is essential for scenes or targets which change rapidly.

MSX instruments include SPIRIT III (Spatial Infrared Imaging Telescope), an infrared radiometer and interferometer/spectrometer built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory of Utah State University; UVISI (Ultraviolet Visible Imagers and Spectrographic Imagers), built by JHU/APL; SBV (Space-Based Visible) Instrument, built by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory; OSDP (On-Board Signal and Data Processor), built by Hughes Aircraft Co.; and a suite of contamination sensors provided by JHU/APL.

Target complex development and operation was managed by the U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command, Huntsville, Ala., and by Sandia National Laboratory, Albuquerque, N.M. Launch range operations were conducted by the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility. The U.S. Army Kwajalein Missile Range was responsible for impact range operations.

MSX management at BMDO includes Lt. Col. Guilmain, and Maj. Peter Kurucz, Deputy Program Manager. APL Program Manager is Mr. Max R. Peterson. MSX Project Scientist is Dr. John D. Mill of the Environment Research Institute of Michigan. MSX Chief Scientist is Dr. A.T. Stair, Jr., of Visidyne, Inc.

Principal Investigators are assigned according to major program experiment areas: Mr. Glenn Light, Early Midcourse; Mr. William T. Prestwood, Cooperative Targets; Dr. E. Michael Gaposchkin, Space Surveillance; Dr. Gerry J. Romick, Shortwave Terrestrial Backgrounds; Dr. O. Manuel Uy, Contamination; Dr. Thomas L. Murdock, Data Certification and Technology Transfer; Dr. Stephan D. Price, Celestial Backgrounds; and Mr. Robert R. O'Neil, Earthlimb/Auroral Backgrounds. The MSX program is supported by approximately 100 scientists from 30 institutions.

For more information, please contact the BMDO Office of External Affairs at (703) 695-8743, or Kristi Marren, JHU/APL Office of Communications and Public Affairs, at 240-228-6268

MSX mission updates and downloadable images can be accessed on the World Wide Web at:


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