Kirtland AFB - November 11, 1998 - The Air Force Research Laboratory, the Army Space & Missile Defense Command's Ballistic Missile Targets Joint Project Office, and Defense Threat Reduction Agency have successfully recovered a ballistic "penetrator" launched last month at White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico.
The artillery-shell-like device contained two experiments that measured the force of the impact and how solid granite affects the rapid deceleration of high-velocity objects.
According to Dr. Sandra Slivinsky of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Space Vehicles Directorate, "The penetrator, weighing more than one-quarter ton, survived the 4000 foot-per-second impact and is in good condition.
"Accelerometer experiments measuring the impact forces and rate of deceleration are being removed and analyzed," Slivinsky added
Prime contractor for the project is Orbital Sciences Corporation with assistance from subcontractors Applied Research Associates and Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in removing the experimental packages.
While the Kirtland program is aimed at helping weapon technologists better understand how to destroy buried targets currently beyond their reac, the spinoff of this research could assist planetary and asteroid exploration. Penetrator probes are planned for several missions including the Deep Space 2 mission to Mars which hopes to fire a pair of miniature probes at the Martain surface. The DS2 probes are designed to penetrate the Martian surface and analyze the water vapor content of the planet's subterranean soil. Moreover, the ongoing Europa discoveries that suggest a liquid ocean under an ice crust have led to several proposals to send submarine probe to the Jovian moon where it will penetrate the ice and conduct exploration under the ice.
Space Exploration Penetrator Mission Reports At SpaceDaily
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