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GBI Boost Vehicle

In July 1998 Boeing, the GMD prime contractor, began developing a new three-stage booster for the GMD program, known as the "Boost Vehicle", from commercial off-the-shelf components. The initial concept for the Boost Vehicle came from Boeing, and was called the COTS (Commercial Off-the-Shelf) booster, because it used developed and commercially available rocket stages. It was a three-stage design with an ATK GEM-40VN first stage and two Pratt & Whitney (UTC) Orbus-1A upper stages. However, the contractor encountered difficulty. By the time the booster was flight tested in August 2001, it was already about 18 months behind schedule.

However, the development didn't proceed as smoothly as expected, and the first test flight occurred on 31 August 2001. During this test a first stage anomaly occured, which could have prevented success in an actual intercept attempt. On the second BV flight test on 13 December 2001, the vehicle veered off course and had to be destroyed. Further flight testing of Boeing's BV was cancelled afterwards.

Subsequently, MDA altered its strategy for acquiring a new booster for the interceptor. Instead of relying on a single contractor, MDA authorized Boeing to develop a second source for the booster by awarding a subcontract to another contractor. If development of the boosters proceeds as planned, both boosters would be part of the Block 2004 capability. One booster is known as BV+ and the other as "OSC Lite."

The prime contractor ultimately transferred development of the boost vehicle to a subcontractor which developed a variant - known as "BV+" - for the GMD element. In March 2002, the GBI booster development program was restructured. Boeing's COTS vehicle was transferred to Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, which developed an improved version known as Boost Vehicle-Plus (BV+).

On November 07, 2003 the Department of Defense announced today the results of an assessement of two separate manufacturing process-related accidents in August and September 2003 at Pratt & Whitney's missile propellant mixing facility in San Jose, Calif. These incidents affected three key components of the Missile Defense Agency's (MDA) missile defense development effort. For the near-term, the program most affected is a booster rocket for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). The three-stage booster, in development by Boeing Co. subcontractor Lockheed Martin, uses propellant mixed at the San Jose facility for its second and third stages. Lockheed Martin will continue its development program as a subcontractor to Boeing as soon as possible, and is scheduled to conduct a flight test of its booster configuration from Vandenberg Air Force Base later this year. MDA remains committed to a dual-booster strategy.

The BV+ features a three-stage design with the second and third stages powered by ATK's Orbus 1A solid rocket motor replacing the motors originally supplied by Pratt & Whitney, which exited the program before 2004. BV+ missile utilizes ATK's GEM-40VN rocket motor as the first stage.

The program office and GMD contractor rated the BV+ at a TRL 7. The prime contractor reasoned that the extent of the legacy program and its one successful flight test should allow for this rating. However, given the limited testing as of 2003, the technology had been demonstrated in a restricted flight environment using hardware close in form, fit, and function to that which will be fielded in 2004. However, the first test of a full configuration BV+ booster was to occur with IFT-13A, which was scheduled for the first quarter of fiscal year 2004. The program deferred this test until BV+ production resumed.

Problems with the development and delivery of Lockheed's BV+ booster contributed to cost growth and schedule slips for the program. For example, BV+ production was temporarily suspended because of two separate explosions at a subcontractor's propellant-mixing facility.




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