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MDA completes important step for KEI program

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Missile Defense Agency successfully completed an important exercise of the Kinetic Energy Interceptors program here in preparation for its inaugural flight test later this year. KEI is designed to be a mobile, globally deployable missile defense system featuring the MDA’s newest high-acceleration booster. KEI will provide the Ballistic Missile Defense System with a capability to defeat long-range ballistic missiles during the boost, ascent, and midcourse phases of flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Missile Defense Agency successfully completed an important exercise of the Kinetic Energy Interceptors program here in preparation for its inaugural flight test later this year. KEI is designed to be a mobile, globally deployable missile defense system featuring the MDA’s newest high-acceleration booster. KEI will provide the Ballistic Missile Defense System with a capability to defeat long-range ballistic missiles during the boost, ascent, and midcourse phases of flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Missile Defense Agency successfully completed an important exercise of the Kinetic Energy Interceptors program here in preparation for its inaugural flight test later this year.

Team members executed simulated launch countdown activities of an inert pathfinder Kinetic Energy Interceptor booster vehicle April 9 here as a risk reduction effort for the first flight test of the high-acceleration vehicle.

"This is brand-new missile technology with a brand-new control center and a brand-new team working on the range," said 1st Lt. Anna Gunn-Golkin, a KEI program launch mission manager for the 1st Air and Space Test Squadron here. "We wanted to do a full run-through without having tens of thousands of pounds of live explosives (solid propellant) out there."

The KEI pathfinder missile, fully functional with the exception of inert motors, was tested with range instrumentation, launch operations personnel and launch procedures. This pathfinder vehicle test validated launch operations activities in preparation for flight testing.

Lieutenant Gunn-Golkin and 1st Lt. Juan SiancasTao, also a launch mission manager for the KEI program, helped get the program to the exercise phase. For example, their efforts as "integrators and translators" between MDA and the 30th Space Wing helped secure a missile assembly facility, as well as a new launch control facility.

"Working with facility managers like Staff Sgt. Dawn Schultz in the 30th Launch Support Squadron, we were able to transform a building from just a small payload processing facility to a full-up missile assembly building, where they integrate and test the Kinetic Energy Interceptor," Lieutenant Gunn-Golkin said. "We needed support from all areas, communications, security ... It's really a combined 30th Space Wing effort." 

All of that effort paid off since the exercise allowed the MDA and the 30th SW to find process issues early on and fix them safely on the spot. 

KEI is designed to be a mobile, globally deployable missile defense system featuring MDA's newest high-acceleration booster. KEI will provide the Ballistic Missile Defense System with a capability to defeat long-range ballistic missiles during the boost, ascent, and midcourse phases of flight. By engaging hostile missiles in early stages of flight, KEI increases intercept opportunities and enhances the BMDS layered defensive capability.

The KEI program is managed by the Missile Defense Agency in Washington, D.C., and executed by the KEI Project Office in Huntsville, Ala.

(Editor's note: Portions of this article were provided by the Missile Defense Agency.)