Orbital Sciences Corporation has announced that Boeing has selected the company for a contract, valued at $900 million or more over the next eight years, to develop, test and produce ground-based boost vehicles for America’s ballistic missile defence system.
Part of the US Defence Department/Missile Defence Agency’s (MDA) Ground-based Midcourse Defence (GMD), the rocket-propelled boost vehicles will reportedly carry advanced exoatmospheric kill vehicles (EKVs).
EKVs are designed to locate, track and destroy long-range enemy missiles in flight, protecting all 50 US states from future potential terrorist or rogue regime attacks.
Orbital’s contract will include an approximate $400 million development and test phase, to be carried out from 2002 to 2006 and, if approved, a follow-on $535 million production, deployment and support phase, to be conducted from 2003 or 2004 through 2010.
According to current plans, a total of about 70 boost vehicles are to be built and delivered in the development and production phases of the baseline GMD program over the next seven years.
Orbital’s GMD vehicle is said to be a silo-launched three-stage rocket derived from Orbital’s Pegasus and Taurus space boosters.
Under its development and test contract with Boeing, Orbital will modify Pegasus and Taurus system designs and verify the resulting GMD boost vehicle’s performance and operational features in a series of demonstration and test flights.
GMD has been in advanced development since 1998 and is based on technologies pioneered by MDA in the 1980’s and 1990’s. There have been three successful intercepts in five flight tests since 1999, with approximately 19 more scheduled to take place over the next several years of the developmental test program.