Second U.S. anti-missile defence system test fails

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Thursday, February 17, 2005 The United States' second attempt to test a ballistic missile defence system ended in failure on Monday when the interceptor missile did not leave the launch pad.

An unarmed ballistic missile was fired from Kodiak Island, Alaska, which was supposed to have been shot down by the interceptor missile. However the missile remained in its silo in the Ronald Reagan test site on the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

The test is the second straight failure of the system; in a test two months ago, the missile also failed to fire, that time due to a software fault. Initial investigations into Monday's failure blamed a malfunction in ground support equipment, rather than a fault with the missile itself.

The tests are the first in two years; in an earlier series of tests, the system intercepted five of eight target missiles launched.

The project, known as the 'son of Star Wars' (the cancelled 1980s Strategic Defence Initiative was known as the Star Wars program), was announced by President George W. Bush in 2002. The system was supposed to have been operationally deployed last autumn.

This year, $9.1 billion is to be spent on the development of the system. But in his budget for 2006, Bush has cut the spending to $7.8bn.