Late on Wednesday night, just seconds after launch, a US Space Force rocket exploded above Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
Around 11.01 p.m. PDT, just 11 seconds after liftoff, the unarmed Minotaur II+ exploded. According to a press release from the Space Force, no one was hurt in the explosion, and the debris that resulted fell near the launch pad; Lompoc is the closest major city and is about 20 miles south of the base.
According to a press release from Space Launch Delta 30 vice commander Col. Kris Barcomb, “We always have emergency response teams on standby prior to every launch.” “At all times, safety is our top priority.”
The explosion will be examined by an investigative review board, which will try to identify its cause.
The rocket didn’t have a warhead, but one day it might have been in its payload: According to KEYT, the launch served as a test for the Air Force’s brand-new Mk21A reentry vehicle. After briefly entering space at the peak of an ICBM flight path, the reentry vehicle of an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, carries numerous nuclear warheads back into the atmosphere.
By the end of the decade, the outdated Minuteman III ICBMs will be replaced by the new LGM-35A Sentinel ICBM, which is being developed by the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center and the defense contractor Lockheed Martin.
Since the 1970s, the Minuteman III ICBM has played a significant role in the US strategic nuclear forces. Missile bases in Wyoming, North Dakota, and Montana serve as the ground component of the nuclear “triad” — which also includes nuclear-armed aircraft and submarine-based ICBMs — which is intended to deter nuclear attacks by Russia and other nuclear powers.