ICBM Missiles: Reduce, Reuse, RSLP
Arms control treaties and other deactivations have left the USA with over 1,400 ballistic missile rocket motors in storage. The USAF’s Rocket Systems Launch Program looks at ways to reuse them for missile defense testing or spacecraft launches, examines the use of ballistic missile technology for a Conventional Strike Missile (CSM), and studies related technologies. RSLP has supported various technology development efforts for guidance and navigation systems; advanced reentry physics; avionics; Missile Technology Demonstration (MTD); Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) and Ballistic Missile Range Safety Technology (BMRST).
In December 2012, US Space & Missile Command’s Space Development and Test Wing issued 3 indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed-price RSLP contracts, with up to $900 million in task orders to be competed among the winners:
- Lockheed Martin Corp. in Bethesda, MD (FA8818-13-D-0002)
- Oribital Sciences Corp. in Dulles, VA (FA8818-13-D-0004)
- Space Exploration Technologies Inc. (SpaceX) in Hawthorne, CA (FA8818-13-D-0003). The addition of SpaceX is another notable step forward for that company, as it moves to compete for NASA and Pentagon contracts.
Work will be performed until Nov 29/17 in Magna, UT; Chandler, AZ; and Hawthorne, CA.
For space launches, the USAF says that RSLP has a record of 41 consecutive successful Minuteman-based boosts, and another 8 space missions using Minuteman (Orbital’s Minotaur I) and MX Peacekeeper (Orbital’s Minotaur IV/V) motors.
Orbital’s Taurus launch system uses ATK’s Castor 120 derivative of the MX launch motor, and has a 6/9 success rate. That includes a 1/4 record in its last 4 launches, from 2001 – 2011, but 2/3 failures in that period traced to the payload system, not the motors.