Friday, January 12, 2007

Image: Peacekeeper-missile-testing

LGM-118A Peacekeeper missile system being tested at the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The lines shown are the re-entry vehicles -- one Peacekeeper can hold up to 10 nuclear warheads, each independently targeted. Were the warheads armed with a nuclear payload, each would carry with it the explosive power of twenty-five Hiroshima-sized weapons.

From the comments on Digg:

"I've been on island for these tests, so I'll help everyone out here.
1) The launches are from Vandenberg AFB
2) The REV's are NOT traveling at 4k MPH. Honest. That's the DISTANCE from Vandenberg to Kwaj RTS (Reagan Test Site)
3) There are tons of these pictures. The Kwaj. calendar every year has one of these on the cover, and is distributed all over. Whenever there's a "mission" everybody who isn't directly involved in it (doing telemetry, security, whatever) turns out at the north end on Kwaj to watch them come in. I probably have three or four mission pictures that I've taken.
4) Generally launches occur around 2200 island time, and the warheads splashdown at 2230-ish (I think the total flight time is around 22 minutes or so, but I don't know that for-sure for sure). I'd compute the actual speed for everyone, but I don't know the exact altitude before MRV.
5) The REV's come in one-at-a-time through the clouds. No, you don't see the streak. You see a very bright "dot" (although it looks big for a dot to me) come in on the path to the ocean. There are never two visible at once. I would imagine that's so the folks in telemetry have an easier time of it during the test.
6) The total time that REV's are visible is about 1 minute.
7) When I was there, two or three missions were held each year.
8) No, you can't visit. It's a military base. The only way you get out there is to be hired or to know or be related to someone who already is out there.
9) It's one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Better than Hawaii by a TON. The diving in particular is spectacular. Due to the low population in and around the lagoon, the reefs are just outstanding.
10) One of the three world-wide GPS control stations is there.
11) The mission performed by the men and women involved in this work is critically important. The physicists, technicians, computer scientists, and others that work on Roi, Meck, an Kwaj (and a few other islands in the atoll) have learned an enormous amount about not only ballistic missiles, but re-entry of other objects as well. That technology, wisdom, and experience are critically important in, for example, the ability to determine the threat that NEO's pose to Earth, and in determining the threat that rogue states such as PRK pose to their neighbors."

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