ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A rocket sent aloft from the Kodiak Launch Complex had to be destroyed seconds after liftoff Friday when trackers lost communication with the missile.
It was the first time a rocket used in testing for the missile defense program had to be destroyed after launch, said Col. Rick Lehner, spokesman for the missile defense program in Washington, D.C.
The rocket was launched from the complex, operated by the Alaska Aerospace Development Corp., at 9:12 a.m. It was destroyed 52 seconds later when launch officials lost telemetry data and data transmission from the missile, Lehner said.
''It seems to be a telemetry problem and safety rules dictate that, if you lose that type of data transmission, you have to destroy the missile,'' Lehner said. Despite the loss of data, the rocket remained on course until it was destroyed. A board would be convened to investigate the problem, Lehner said.
''It could take weeks to figure out what caused the problem,'' he said.
The missile was 20 miles off the coast of Kodiak when it was destroyed. The pieces dropped into the ocean and were spead over an area 17 to 45 miles from the island, Lehner said.
The military had announced Wednesday that it planned to launch the rocket sometime between Friday and Nov. 21, but would not give the exact time and date, citing security concerns stemming from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The Coast Guard had been broadcasting a notice to mariners in the area, warning vessels to stay out of the launch clearance area due to safety hazards caused by falling debris between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. from Nov. 9 through Nov. 21, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Douglas Green.
The rocket was launched to learn more about how ground-based radar systems in California would pick up the characteristics of a warhead and decoys in space, Lehner said.
''It's a strategic target system that carries a dummy warhead and various types of decoys and what we were trying to do is gather radar and sensor data on how the warhead and decoys flew,'' Lehner said.
The information would be used to help design missile defense technology, he said.
The rocket was the first of four scheduled to be launched from Kodiak over the next two years to test radar systems, Lehner said. If it had not been destroyed, the rocket would have flown south and fallen into the Pacific Ocean, several hundred miles off the coast of California.
Lehner described the rocket as the first two stages of a Polaris missile and the third stage of an Orbis rocket.
''These are all tried and true rocket missiles,'' Lehner said.
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