A Minotaur II+ rocket that was supposed to support the first test of the re-entry vehicle for the US Air Force’s new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) exploded approximately 11 seconds after launching from Test Pad-01 at Vandenberg Space Force Base on Wednesday.
The launch was intended to support efforts to develop the Mk21A re-entry vehicle for the US Air Force’s future Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, the LGM-35A Sentinel.
The Mk21A will allow the air force to employ the Interoperable Warhead 1 nuclear warhead, when released from the GBSD ICBM. Re-entry vehicle components include a high-velocity nosetip, high-impact transducer, fuze, aeroshell forward section, body section and rear cover, radio frequency subsystem with antennas, spin-up system, in-flight disconnect cable and other electrical cables.
According to a statement from Vandenberg, no one was injuries in the explosion and the debris was contained to the immediate vicinity of the launch pad.
“We always have emergency response teams on standby prior to every launch,” said Col. Kris Barcomb, Space Launch Delta 30 vice commander and launch decision authority for this launch, “Safety is our priority at all times.”
The base said an investigative review board has been established to determine the cause of the explosion.