The US Ballistic Missile Defense Shield has been a little quiet of late, probably because back when the Star Wars Initiative was announced there was such a vast media presence for it. However, that's started to change as Lockheed Martin have, quietly, carried out the first successful test of the MKV-L.
Not quite as cool sounding as Hunter/Killer is it? Well, what the "Multiple Kill Vehicle"–Lockheed (Another company, Raytheon, are working on the MKV-R) lacks in punchy name it more than makes up for in, well, punch. The idea behind it is pretty simple and has been around since, ironically, the first time the US tried a satellite defence system. The fastest way to destroy a nuclear missile in mid flight is to hit it very hard with something else. The trick of course is to get the right projectile to the right place at the time, navigating through the various decoys the missile deploys.
The MKV-L solves this problem by acting, in essence, as a miniature aircraft carrier. The main vehicle, designed to operate in zero gravity, can recognise decoys and counter measures and manoeuvre around them before deploying it's cargo - the charmingly named 'kill vehicles' - to destroy the incoming warheads.
By itself, this concept is cool. However, Lockheed Martin conducted flight tests on a full scale MKV-L prototype recently and the practical results were impressive. A vehicle designed to operate in zero gravity lifted off to a height of seven metres, manoeuvred and tracked a target before shutting down, all under full Earth gravity. The end result may look like a cross between the turrets from Portal and a particularly angry International Space Station module but it's probably best not to say that to it's face.
Missile Defense Agency Website with PDF and video of the test, listed under 3 December, can be found here . The above article contributed by Alasdair Stuart, of Hub magazine ( www.hub-mag.co.uk ). He first blogged about other hounds of Skynet here .