By Stephen LeeFebruary 2, 2009
The Missile Defense Agency contracted the Delta Mariner to bring their support equipment to their launch site at Meck Island. The Delta Mariner, a 312-foot long and 8,000-horsepower supply ship, specializes in transporting space-bound hardware. Designed to navigate shallow inland waterways as well as the open ocean, this versatile transport vessel hauled launch support equipment almost 11,000 miles from Decatur, Ala., down the Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi rivers into the Gulf of Mexico. The ship transited the Panama Canal en route to the Hawaiian Islands then on to Kwajalein Atoll. This journey began on Dec. 22 and ended when the Delta Mariner docked at Meck Island on Jan. 30.
The logistics functional lead for targets and countermeasures, Ken McDonald, reported, "This shipment is the first of its kind for the Missile Defense Agency. We have never shipped materiel by ship at any time in the agency's history." It is also reported to be the largest ship that has ever sailed into the lagoon.
The delivery of the launch support equipment to Meck Island marks the first phase of preparation at Reagan Test Site to support the Missile Defense Agency's two-stage intermediate/long-range launch vehicle, or LV-2. The LV-2 is part of the agency's Flexible Target Family and will be used to test the Ballistic Missile Defense System later this year.
The Missile Defense Agency plans to conduct two tests this year with launches of LV-2s from Meck Island. The joint Government-Lockheed Martin test support teams will maintain a consistent presence on Kwajalein for the remainder of the year. The LV-2 Project Manager, Scott Shifrin, stated, "We are very pleased with the support provided by RTS and USAKA. We look forward to launching targets from Meck Island for many years to come."
The Flexible Target Family, developed by prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, is composed of targets that exhibit various degrees of threat emulation with a broad range of performance characteristics and features in order to present tailorable target behaviors that test multiple Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) capabilities. The LV-2 uses Trident C4 Stage 1 and Stage 2 motors for the required trajectories, accommodating the agency's desired capability for heavier payloads, longer downrange distances, higher velocities and variable launch capabilities.
The LV-2 first flight is planned for 3rd quarter fiscal year 2009 in a planned BMDS flight test.