Engineers using missile intercept data for sensor-based research

AUBURN – Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering is actively engaged in developing technologies similar to those demonstrated in last Friday’s flight test conducted by the Missile Defense Agency. The Department of Defense agency announced last week that it successfully completed this exercise involving a ground-based interceptor missile.

The long-range ballistic target was tracked using integrated command and control with several land- and sea-based radars, which are critical for tracking objects accurately in space. Auburn researchers are participating in the development of a myriad of related technologies, including sensor-based technology for aviation and avionics projects.

“Advanced tracking tools and sensors, some of which we are actively developing at Auburn, are critical for further testing and relevant to a variety of aerospace missions,” says John Cochran, head of Auburn’s Department of Aerospace Engineering. “The scientific complexity of combining software and hardware with multiple sensor integration shows the necessity of conducting coordinated efforts to test and remotely launch these types of devices.”

The real-time attack, with a missile launched from Kodiak, Alaska, and interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., took only 25 minutes, from start to completion, and simulated real-life conditions of an operation to bring down a missile threat. A commercial airline flight across this distance would take approximately three hours.

The successful completion of this extremely complicated test mission involved automation, a remote launch and two missiles moving towards one another at hypersonic speeds. It is the agency’s most complex test with the most realistic form of target.

“The test demonstrates the system’s precise performance and validates and enhances the continuing development of precise targeting and tracking based on computerized command and control, as well as the integration of data collected from multiple, geographically dispersed sensors,” says Ralph Zee, associate dean of research for the College of Engineering.

For information on aviation and avionics engineering research conducted at Auburn University visit

Contact: Sally Credille, (334) 844-3447, (,
Charles Martin, (334) 844-9986, (

2 thoughts on “Engineers using missile intercept data for sensor-based research

  1. KRLIG

    How Do We Define Success?

    On December 5, a rocket launched from Vandenburg AFB in California intercepted a rocket launched from Kodiak, Alaska

    1. It wasn’t a resounding “success”: According to Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, head of the Missile Defense Agency, “…the target did not release planned countermeasures designed to try to confuse the interceptor missile. O’Reilly did not say what those countermeasures were, but they often include decoys or chaff to throw off shoot-down attempts.” Apparently the technology to shoot down a real enemy missile, which would have countermeasures, is not yet working.

    2.It wasn’t a truly realistic test: The “test” was very tightly controlled – everybody knew when the interceptor would be launched and its probable path (they’ve launched targets from KLC before). Furthermore, the velocity of the target drone is about 40% less than that of an actual “enemy” missile. One wonders what would happen if they actually had to scramble an interceptor with no prior warning. Now that would be a TRUE test.

    3. If the U.S. can’t launch an ICBM that works the way it should, why do we think other countries can? Neither North Korea or Iran has ever successfully fired a missile that had any chance of landing anywhere near the U.S. Right now, if North Korea got really lucky, they might be able to hit the tip of the Aleutians. We are sure the folks out there appreciate the expenditure of ten billion dollars a year to help them sleep more soundly.

    4. It’s ALL about the money: Roughly $10 billion is spent per year on the program, which is run by defense contractor Boeing Co. but includes work by most of the nation’s largest weapons makers. It is spread across three branches of the military and is composed of missiles, radar and satellites designed to intercept missiles during different stages of flight. While it might help the economy to keep all those defense contractors in business, the money could be spend more wisely on our nation’s crumbling infrastructure and to aid people being evicted from their homes.

    5. Fortunately, President-elect Barack Obama expressed skepticism about the capabilities of the system during his campaign, leading to speculation he may reduce the program’s scope. Russia has strongly objected to plans to install missile interceptors in Eastern Europe.

    6. At least the true character of the KLC has finally been admitted. According to the AP: “WASHINGTON – The Defense Department said today it shot down a missile launched from a military base in Alaska…”

    7. Finally, Kodiak, Alaska desperately needs a new high school and a new police station and jail. Our roads are a mess and infrastructure in Kodiak, Alaska and all across the United States is crumbling. Take a drive down the badly disintegrating Mission Road past the Salvation Army and ask yourself: Is Missile Defense worth it? Friday’s test cost between $120 million to $150 million.

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