A rocket blasted off into the sky Tuesday night from Vandenberg Air Force Base as part of a test of the U.S. missile defense system.
At 11:57 p.m. that night, the rocket – a Chimera target launch vehicle – successfully emerged from an underground silo on the base, which is located in north Santa Barbara County. The launch provided information for a project to help the military track missiles.
The rocket’s fight was designed to fly close to a research satellite known as the Near Field Infrared Experiment. The NFIRE satellite, which is equipped to collect high- and low-resolution images of the boosting rocket, observed the flight and gathered data on the rocket plume.
The exercise required that the two objects – which were both moving at speeds of several thousand miles per hour – align within mere kilometers of one another in order for the satellite to observe the missile in flight.
The information gathered from the NFIRE satellite will be used to promote missile accuracy and a better missile defense system in the future. Additionally, the Missile Defense Agency will use the data to improve models and simulations that are fundamental to missile defense technologies.