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″Star Wars” Launch A Complete Success

September 6, 1986

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ The first major space test of the ″Star Wars″ defense system was a total success, officials said after two satellites tracked a rising rocket and then destroyed one another in a deliberate collision.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration also is pleased and relieved about the perfect performance of the Delta rocket that propelled the payloads into orbit Friday. It was the first space rocket success for NASA since the Jan. 28 Challenger explosion.

Friday’s $150 million exercise was a major test of President Reagan’s proposed Strategic Defense Initiative missile defense system. The Strategic Defense Initiative Office said it came off flawlessly.

Lt. Col. Terry Monrad, an SDIO spokesman, said the two payloads ″used a variety of sensors to conduct observations during maneuvers from a variety of viewpoints.″

After they had tracked one another for about four hours, he said, they pointed at each other and collided.

He said that within 72 hours, 90 percent of the debris would re-enter the atmosphere.

Monrad said the collision was a key test of technology using kinetic energy, in which one projectile is hurled at another at great speed, demolishing the target.

SDIO, which kept the operation secret before the launch, reported that within two hours after the Delta lifted off, an Aries rocket was fired from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in connection with the test.

Asked if one or both the satellites tracked the rocket, Monrad responded, ″I think you can draw your own conclusion.″

Objectives of the test were for the satellites to obtain spectral data on each other with infrared sensors and to test guidance, navigation and other systems used in the maneuvering.

One element of the defense system envisions scores of orbiting satellites equipped with lasers, kinetic energy devices and other anti-missile measures.

The SDIO said the test did not violate terms of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Soviet Union nor was the exercise an anti-satellite test.

NASA officials, meanwhile, expressed satisfaction with the Delta launching.

″This is a much happier occasion than the last time we met,″ Delta launch director Charles Gay told reporters, referring to a failure in May.

″I think this success was very significant,″ he said. ″The agency needed it, we needed it for morale purposes and the country needed it because we’ve had a string of failures.″

NASA has had three space rocket failures since the space shuttle Challenger exploded, killing the crew of seven.

One of the failures was a Delta that lost first stage thrust and went out of control on May 3, destroying a $57.5 million weather satellite. The others were Nike Orion and Aries rockets carrying scientific packages on suborbital flights.

An Air Force Titan 34D lifting a military spy satellite exploded in April, and a Minuteman 3 ballistic missile failed last month.

The space shuttle and the Delta, Titan 34D and Atlas-Centaur rockets were grounded, the latter because it has an electrical system similar to that blamed for the Delta failure.

The Atlas-Centaur is expected to fly again in November and the Titan 34D early in 1987. The shuttle won’t return to space until 1988.

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