Minuteman II Launch from Vandenberg AFB  10-14-2002

Read more about the Mission below & the "TWILIGHT PHENOMENON"

All photos were taken 120 miles from Vandenberg AFB from the Angeles Forest
north of the San Fernando Valley.




 Below are links to previous Minuteman launches

 Minuteman III launch test on 09-19-2002

  Minuteman II launch Intercept test on 03-15-2002

  Minuteman II launch Intercept test on 07-14-2001

  Minuteman II launch on 07-07-2002

  Minuteman II launch on 10-02-1999

 Minuteman II launch on 06-23-1997

                               The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced today, October 14, 2002, it has
                               successfully completed a flight test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD)
                               development program, intercepting an intercontinental ballistic missile target over the
                               central Pacific Ocean in the Western Test Range. A modified Minuteman
                               intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) target vehicle was launched from Vandenberg AFB,
                               Calif., at 10:00 p.m. EDT, and a prototype interceptor was launched approximately 22
                               minutes later and 4,800 miles away from the Ronald Reagan Missile Site, Kwajalein Atoll,
                               in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The intercept took place approximately six
                               minutes after the interceptor was launched, at an altitude in excess of 140 miles above the
                               earth, and during the midcourse phase of the target warhead's flight. This was the fifth
                               successful intercept--and the fourth consecutive--in seven flight tests since
                               October 1999 for the GMD program.


     A “twilight phenomenon” is created when unburned missile propellant particles and water left in the wake of an intercontinental ballistic missile or space booster freeze in the lese dense upper atmosphere. These frozen fragments reflect the high altitude sunlight, typically producing a green, blue, white and rose-colored luminescence.

     Although this brilliant effect may also feature some corkscrew shape clouds, no two instances have looked exactly alike. Any single instances of the phenomenon may appear differently to different observers, depending on the location from which they view it.

     The most brilliant instances of the phenomenon have happened between 30 and 60 minutes after sunset or before sunrise. For conditions to be “right,” skies must be clear over the area, the sun must be below the horizon and the sky must be dark. As the missile rises out of the darkness into the sunlight, a twilight phenomenon may result.

     Vandenberg AFB has launched more than 1,800 missiles and space boosters since December 1958 and only a small number of these launches have created twilight phenomenon. Some observers have assumed-incorrectly that the missiles creating the aerial spectacle must have malfunctioned. This belief stems from the appearance of the missile’s contrail when it becomes twisted into giant white pretzel shapes by the high altitude air currents.

     No malfunctioning missile has ever created the phenomenon. On the rare occasions when a missile does malfunction, it’s destroyed by the range safety officer before reaching the altitude at which twilight phenomenon occurs.

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