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Northrop Grumman to repurpose ICBM parts for commercial use

By Stephen Carlson
Northrop Grumman to repurpose ICBM parts for commercial use
A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch out of Vandenberg Air Force Base. Photo by Senior Airman Kyla Gifford/30th Space Wing Public Affairs/U.S. Air Force

Sept. 7 (UPI) -- Northrop Grumman's ATK Launch Systems has received a $86.4 million contract for engineering services of the Minuteman and Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The contract provides for component testing, evaluation, engineering support and disposal for all stages of Minuteman and Peacekeeper systems.

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Work will be performed in Promontory, Utah, and Utah Test and Training Range. Air Force fiscal year 2018 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $637,194 will be obligated at the time of award.

The missile components will be repurposed for use in government space flight operations for satellite launches and other uses, according to Northrop Grumman, which acquired Orbital ATK in June.

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The Peacekeeper, also known as the MX, was made in small numbers during the 1980's as a first strike missile capable of carrying up to 10 nuclear warheads to destroy Soviet missile silos.

While the Peacekeeper program saw developmental delays, including complaints from Congress about the cost of its development, reported parts issues and concerns with its guidance system during initial deployment, the Air Force was largely happy with the missile and it is credited with playing a role in the end of the Cold War.

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The Peacekeeper was removed from service as part of the START II arms control treaty with Russia, with the final missile being deactivated in 2005.

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Some Peacekeeper motors more than 30 years old have been used in recent years, as one retired motor was successfully used in the ORS-5 satellite launch in August 2017 and another was static fired by Northrop Grumman in March.

The Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles form a key part of the U.S. nuclear deterrent and is the only land-based ICBM in U.S. service, with deactivated motors that are no longer part of the deterrent being redirected for other government uses, Northrop Grumman said.

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