LOS ANGELES — An interceptor missile destroyed a mock warhead in space over the Pacific Ocean on Friday, a key test of the U.S. missile defense system that prompted North Korea to accuse America of threatening war.
It was the most realistic test of the systems that would be used against an attack, said Missile Defense Agency spokesman Rick Lehner.
The 54-foot interceptor shot out of an underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base on the central California coast at 10:39 a.m., 17 minutes after the mock warhead was launched from Kodiak Island, Alaska, Lehner said.
The interceptor carried a refrigerator-sized “kill vehicle” that locked on to the approaching mock enemy missile and flew into the 4-foot-long warhead at 18,000 mph.
Lehner said both disintegrated more than 100 miles above the Earth and a few hundred miles west of Vandenberg. The interceptor’s flight lasted 13 minutes.
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The launch was postponed from Thursday after fog socked in Kodiak Island. There was also fog over Vandenberg Friday morning but it burned off.
They’ve been pouring billions into this project since before many of you were born. And they’re finally at a point that it might work, as long as it’s a nice sunny day and they have the enemy’s exact missile coordinates in advance.