Arnold Engineering Development Complex personnel completed testing of a Minuteman III Stage II motor in the Complex’s J-6 Large Rocket Test Facility for aging surveillance of the 48-year-old defense program.
“The Stage II motor is part of the Minuteman III Aging and Surveillance test program to obtain motor performance data that is used to identify and quantify age-related degradation,” said Richard Kirkpatrick, an AEDC test manager and engineer in the Space and Missile Test Branch. “In addition, the motor is inspected post-test for any emerging critical failure modes.”
Since these motors are located in different operational locations for varying lengths of time, aging surveillance testing may uncover critical information that is valuable to the Department of Defense.
“Motors such as this Stage II, are pulled from the field and sent to us to test,” said Brandon Dorman, a J-6 test engineer. “The motor’s age and storage conditions are tracked and documented for the test. It is fired at the J-6 facility and various performance parameters are collected and analyzed to determine the motor’s overall performance. This information is then compared to build specifications, as well as previous firings, to assist in early detection of trends that could threaten the readiness of our nation’s ICBM [Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile] fleet.”
Preparation for the test involves coordination from different support areas at the Complex.
“We support buildup of the rocket motor and facility by translating the test requirements into information that the AEDC [test] team will use to prepare for the firing,” said Paul Ritter, a J-6 project engineer.
Ritter and David Schwer, also a J-6 project engineer, share responsibility for assessing motor performance through data analysis and technical reporting.
“We are able to determine, and relate to the customer, whether or not the motor has been able to maintain its required ballistic performance,” Ritter said.
In addition to validating current motor performance, acquired data from these aging surveillance tests may be useful in updating current requirements and developing requirements for future motors.