The Kinetic Energy Interceptors (KEI) team led by Northrop Grumman [NOC] successfully completed structural integrity and hydro-proof tests of composite cases planned for use on the high-pressure Stage 1 and 2 solid rocket motors., the company said. The tests, conducted by ATK [ATK] at its Utah facility, took place during a three-month period ending in July. ATK is the principal subcontractor responsible for Stage 1 and 2 rocket motor development.

Raytheon [RTN] oversaw the tests as the team’s lead for interceptor development.

The structural and hydro-proof tests are performed to intentionally destroy a case to demonstrate it can withstand internal pressures and loads beyond what the cases will experience during operational flight. The test uses a high-pressure water system that simulates different loads over a period of time, gradually increasing the pressure each cycle.

"Both Stage 1 and Stage 2 configurations represent the same design and process to be used for our booster flight test planned for 2009," Tony Spehar, sector vice president and KEI program manager for Northrop Grumman Space Technology sector, said in a statement. "Together, these tests significantly reduce risk associated with the program and demonstrate the progress we’ve made since the last rocket motor test."

Solid rocket motors cases have been tested this way for decades. This test is another milestone to ensure the success of the program as it prepares for the full-scale KEI booster flight in spring of 2009.

KEI is designed to be a mobile, globally deployable missile defense system featuring MDA’s newest high-acceleration booster. The system’s mission is to provide a strategically deployable, tactically mobile, land- and sea-based capability to defeat medium- to long-range ballistic missiles during the boost, ascent and midcourse phases of flight. The Northrop Grumman-led team won the development and test contract in 2003.