A key propulsion system component for the Multiple Kill Vehicle-L (MKV-L) payload passed a test, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced.

A post-test assessment showed that the divert thruster stem met performance requirements in a series of static, hot-fire tests at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, N.M.

During an engagement with the enemy, this high-performance propulsion system maneuvers the carrier vehicle and its cargo of kill vehicles into the threat complex to intercept the targets.

With tracking data from the Ballistic Missile Defense System and its own seeker, the carrier vehicle dispenses and guides the kill vehicles to destroy targets in the complex. This technology will negate more advanced countermeasures that could be aboard hostile ballistic missiles, according to MDA.

Next, a hover test of the carrier vehicle will be conducted at the National Hover Test Facility at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. later this year. In this controlled flight test, the carrier vehicle, with a load of 12 inert kill vehicles, will maneuver while tracking a surrogate target complex a distance away.

The MDA Multiple Kill Vehicle is a force multiplier for all of the land- and sea-based weapons of the integrated midcourse missile defense system. In the event of an enemy launch, a single interceptor equipped with this payload destroys not only the re-entry vehicle but also all credible threat objects, including countermeasures the enemy deploys to try to spoof our defenses.

This many-on-many strategy eliminates the need for extensive pre-launch intelligence while leveraging the Ballistic Missile Defense System discrimination capability, ensuring a robust and affordable solution to emerging threats, MDA stated.

The MKV-L development team for MDA includes Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] unit Space Systems in Sunnyvale, Calif., as the prime contractor; Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., a United Technologies Corp. [UTX] company, and Octant Technologies Inc., San Jose, Calif.

Raytheon Co. [RTN] also is developing a separate multiple kill vehicle technology on a dual-path basis.