The website of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA) is reporting that the cause of the failure of the July 5 FTG-07 Ground-Based Midcourse (GMD) intercept test was a failure of the booster rocket of the interceptor. Specifically, according to the MDAA, “preliminary findings” indicate that the final stage of the booster failed to separate. As the MDAA article discusses, the consequences of this failure will depend heavily on whether the problem was an isolated quality control problem affecting only a single booster or was due to a more systemic problem that could affect the entire fleet of GBI interceptors (or some subset of them).
If the reported reason for the failure is correct, this will also likely mean that virtually no data on the performance of the kill vehicle was collected. This would be a serious setback, since as discussed in my post of July 5, the primary purpose of the test was to check the performance of the refurbished CE-I kill vehicle after it had received “24 to 25” improvements (possibly some of these improvements were to the booster) and possibly also to test the kill vehicle against “countermeasures.” Thus although the Missile Defense Agency will undoubtedly emphasize that many elements of the system, such as the radars, worked well, this would mean that, as far as advancing the GMD program is concerned, the test is essentially a complete loss.