On Sept 1, 2010, the Missile Defense Agency executed the Flight Experiment Laser (FEL-01b) mission at the Point Mugu flight test range off the Southern California coast. The objective of this mission was for the Agency's Airborne Laser Test Bed (ALTB) to destroy a liquid-fuel, short-range ballistic missile during its boost phase.
During the mission the Boeing 747 flying laser laboratory detected and tracked the target. However, the experiment terminated early when corrupted beam control software steered the high energy laser slightly off center.
While we continue analyzing the failure, preliminary indications are that a communication software error within the system that controls the laser beam caused misalignment of the beam. The ALTB safety system detected this shift and immediately shut down the high energy laser.
The Agency plans to resume flight experiments beginning with tests of the software repair on September 13 leading to a lethal shootdown experiment involving a solid-fuel target missile by the end of this month.
A mid-October experiment is in the planning stages that will involve lasing a solid-fuel missile at three times the range of last February’s successful destruction of a liquid-fuel missile.
Update on Airborne Laser Test Bed Experiment