Kinetic Energy Anti-Satellite (KE-ASAT)
Boeing [BA] has been integrating and conducting environmental compliance tests on three kill vehicles for the KE-ASAT.
The notion behind the KE-ASAT program is to put kill vehicles in orbit so they conceivably could be used to destroy enemy space platforms.
In a combat scenario, a KE-ASAT could be used to slam into and kinetically kill an enemy target in space.
There are no foreign participants in this program.
The Army and Boeing [BA] have been conducting integration work and environmental compliance tests on three kill vehicles for the Kinetic Energy-Anti-Satellite (KE-ASAT) program in the hopes of progressing to a flight test in a revived program. However, progress has been slow and the program has been under fire from critics who are opposed to putting weapons in space. Army program officials have estimated the cost of a KE-ASAT on orbit demonstration would cost about $60 million. That cost would include enough funds for two flight test vehicles and one spare, they said. A KE-ASAT vehicle could be launched on Pegasus, STARS and Minuteman I, II and III boosters, officials noted. Boeing is the prime contractor for the kill vehicle development with Huntsville, Ala.-based subcontractors Teledyne Brown, Davidson Technologies and Miltec. Army Space and Missile Defense Command previously directed the KE-ASAT program focus on development of the three kill vehicles that would then be put on the shelf and used later if needed. That decision came after much controversy surfaced due to program management problems and also opposition to putting weapons platforms in space. The former Clinton administration killed the program, while GOP congressional supporters restored modest funding in the annual DoD budget to keep the program alive. Now, program officials maintain there is more support in the Bush administration for such endeavors. While officials declined to provide specifics on what a flight test would entail, they said a kill vehicle would be boosted into space and then fired on a “target of opportunity,” which might be some satellite already in space that is no longer viable. The whole concept behind the KE-ASAT program has been to deny, disrupt, degrade and/or destroy an enemy space system with a kill vehicle that conceivably would slam at a high speed at an enemy target in orbit. Critics have warned such a capability could backfire and potentially cause harm to U.S. space assets should a test or launch procedure go awry. There also has been concern in the past about the potential to create more space debris. And, some Air Force leaders publicly have questioned the utility of a KE-ASAT.