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July 8, 2022

Minotaur II+ rocket explodes seconds after launch from Vandenberg SFB

This was the first test to support development of the USAF’s new Mark21A Reentry Vehicle.

Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB) has reported that the first test launch of the Minotaur II+ rocket resulted in an explosion shortly after lift-off.

The rocket exploded around 11 seconds after its launch from the Test Pad-01 in VSFB, California at 11:01pm on 6 July.

According to the VSFB, the explosion did not cause any injuries and the debris from the explosion was contained to the launch pad’s immediate vicinity.

Space Launch Delta 30 vice-commander and launch decision authority for this launch colonel Kris Barcomb said: “We always have emergency response teams on standby prior to every launch.

“Safety is our priority at all times.”

The VSFB claimed that an investigative review board has also been established to find out the cause of this explosion.

The unarmed test launch, which was scheduled for 7 July, marks the first test to support the development of the US Air Force’s (USAF) new Mark21A Reentry Vehicle (Mk21A).

This re-entry vehicle will support the future LGM-35A Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Both the Mk21A and LGM-35A Sentinel are being developed by the US Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center (AFNWC).

The ground-based strategic deterrent (GBSD) ICBM was designated as LGM-35A Sentinel by the US Department of the Air Force (DAF) in April this year.

According to AFNWC officials, this test launch aimed to demonstrate the relevant payload technologies and preliminary design concepts of the weapon system in an operationally realistic environment.

Developed by Northrop Grumman, the new weapon system LGM-35A has been designed to replace the ageing Minuteman III ICBM. 

The old Minuteman III has been in service with the USAF for more than five decades.

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