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Arnold AFB provides primary altitude test support for Minuteman rocket motors

Due to its unique capabilities, the J-6 Large Rocket Motor Test Facility at Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee is the primary altitude simulation testing facility for Stages 2 and 3 of the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The most recent testing is to assist the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center’s ICBM Systems directorate at Hill AFB, Utah, in determining the service life of the ICBM, says Joe Migliaccio, a lead for rocket propulsion test operations at Arnold AFB.

“We are testing the current line of Minuteman missiles deployed,” Migliaccio said.

Migliaccio explained the reason J-6 is used as the primary testing facility for the Minuteman is its altitude capabilities: “These ICBMs require altitude simulation to verify limits and we are one of the few places that do it. If a facility is unable to simulate the altitude needed, the test customer isn’t able to get the data they need.”

Through the years Arnold has played a major role in the development of the Minuteman and other solid rocket motor-based ICBMs for the US Air Force.

“Our facilities are uniquely qualified for the task because there are test cells large enough to accommodate these full-scale ICBM rocket motor stages and provide a stable altitude environment before, during and after the full rocket motor burn time,” Migliaccio said. “This stable altitude environment is possible because our rocket test cells at Arnold are connected to the large exhaust plant compressors.”

Randy Quinn, AEDC test manager, added that as part of the testing, the team checks performance requirements of the motor to evaluate specifications such as thrust, thrust termination and impulse.

“We make sure that it’s performing within the requirements,” Quinn said. “A database has been established here at Arnold to compare aging motor test data to production test data to ensure requirements are met.”

In addition to the Minuteman program, the Star variants, Peacekeeper Stage 2 and Stage 3, small ICBM motors, Orion motors, and the Payload Assist Modules rocket programs have been tested at Arnold AFB.

July 12, 2017

Written by Michael Jones


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