Vandenberg missile launch provides light show

The Associated Press
Friday September 20, 2002

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE— The launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile Thursday night provided a spectacular light show that was seen over much of California and as far away as Arizona. 

The missile, part of the Force Development Evaluation Program, blasted off at 7:36 p.m. and the colorful contrail was seen over almost all of the state, from Salinas in Northern California to Los Angeles and even in Phoenix. 

The three-stage, solid-fueled missile was blasted out of an underground silo located from the military base north of Santa Barbara. 

The two unarmed re-entry vehicles were expected to travel about 4,200 miles in about 30 minutes. The vehicles were to strike predetermined targets at the Kwajalein Missile Range in the western chain of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean, the Air Force said in a prepared statement. 

The mission was directed by the 576th Flight Test Squadron at Vandenberg and the 341th Space Wing and the 341st Space Wing, from Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. 

The Force Development Evaluation Program’s mission is to test missile launching systems and make missiles more accurate and reliable.