Tests of a promising American ICBM turned into an explosion over the launch pad

(ORDO NEWS) — The Minotaur II + military launch vehicle was supposed to deliver the prototype of the head of the LGM-35 Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile into near-Earth space.

But something went wrong, and the launch turned into an explosion a few seconds after the start of the first stage engines.

According to a brief press release from the Vandenberg Space Force Base ( Vandenberg Space Force Base , aka the Vandenberg Space Center), the Minotaur II + rocket exploded about 11 seconds after taking off from the Test Pad-01 launch pad.

The incident occurred on July 6, at 23:01 Pacific Summer Time (09:01 Thursday, July 7, Moscow time), there were no casualties and serious damage, all the debris fell in the immediate vicinity of the launch pad.

The investigation of the accident will last for some time, but its causes may not become public knowledge – the carrier is exclusively military.

In addition to official reports, there is additional information that enthusiasts and journalists managed to collect from indirect sources.

So, the military portal of the online publication The Drive writes that the IRIS EPO seismic observation network recorded two events – the launch of a rocket and its explosion. The timestamps match the Vandenberg Base press release.

Tests of a promising American ICBM turned into an explosion over the launch pad 1
IRIS EPO launch and explosion seismograms

In addition, the NASA fire monitoring system registered a fire near the spaceport. Its extinguishing lasted until midnight. An interesting detail: the launch was originally planned for Thursday morning, but for unnamed reasons it was postponed a few hours earlier.

As far as is known, the payload of the Minotaur II + was the prototype Mk21A warhead . This is an advanced individual targeting unit for W87 nuclear charges and a similar size. Previous versions were installed on LGM-118A Peacekeeper and LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Tests of a promising American ICBM turned into an explosion over the launch pad 2
One of the few photos of the Mk21 advanced head end prototype

The upgraded warhead is intended for the promising LGM-35 Sentinel ICBM . Its development is in full swing, and commissioning is scheduled closer to 2029.

How much an unsuccessful test of the head part will affect this program is not yet known. Most likely, there will be no serious delays, since the problems clearly arose on the side of the carrier, and not the prototype itself.

The Minotaur II + missile , like the entire Minotaur family (with the exception of version C and its “relative” Pegasus ), is an exclusively military carrier, which is a “constructor” of solid-propellant stages of Minuteman and Peacekeeper ICBMs . They are used for various testing and launching of small payloads.

So far this week, the Minotaur II has successfully flown eight times with suborbital technology demonstrators or missile defense test targets. The incident last Wednesday is the first failure for the second rocket of the family and the fourth for all the Minotaurs.


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