During a launch test at the Space Force Base in California, a US Minotaur II+ rocket exploded.
A US Minotaur II+ rocket exploded just 11 seconds after being fired from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base late Wednesday night, officials confirmed on Thursday. Although the blast caused some fires, no injuries were sustained at the site.
The Minotaur’s space launch vehicle was being tested ahead of plans to replace the US’ aging Minuteman missiles in its ICBM arsenal. It will work with the LGM-35A Sentinel rocket, currently in development.
The launch was intended to be the first test of the Air Force’s new Mk21A reentry vehicle, also part of the lGM-35A ICBM. According to Air Force officials, it was supposed to “Demonstrate preliminary designs and technologies in realistic operational environments.”
The task of an investigative review board is to find out the causes and solutions for any problems that occurred during launch.
The estimated cost to upgrade and modernize the land-based arm of the US’ so-called nuclear triad, represented by the LGM-30 Minuteman III ICBM systems currently in use, is estimated at $100 billion. The Air Force insists that the development of new missiles is more cost-effective than modernizing the Minuteman, which has been in service for 50 years.
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The upgrade will require existing launch facilities, missile alert systems, communications systems, infrastructure, and other nuclear-related technologies to be upgraded and replaced to support the Sentinel ICBMs, and the Minuteman missiles will be decommissioned – both costly processes.
The new Sentinel ICBMs are expected to be able to carry 475 kilotons’ worth of payload, distributed among an unknown number of W87 nuclear warheads, and are being designed to be launched from underground facilities and mobile launch systems alike. The ICBMs are expected to be online by 2029, and will remain operational until 2070.
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