Monday 6 March 2023

A possible (hypersonic?) missile test from Cape Canaveral [UPDATED]


click map to enlarge

An odd Navigational Warning, NAVAREA IV 221/23 (text of warning below, areas mapped above), was published on March 1, suggesting a launch from Cape Canaveral with a time window from March 2 tot March 6. The jury is still out on what it is, although opinions are converging on a missile test, possibly a test of the hypersonic LHRW.

010205Z MAR 23
NAVAREA IV 221/23(11,24,25 26,51).
   021700Z TO 062138Z MAR IN AREAS BOUND BY:
   A. 28-32.88N 080-33.89W, 28-28.00N 080-02.00W,
      28-20.00N 080-02.00W, 28-25.62N 080-34.48W.
   B. 28-04.00N 078-49.00W, 28-11.00N 078-47.00W,
      27-53.00N 077-23.00W, 27-44.00N 077-26.00W.
   C. 28-27.00N 080-02.00W, 28-22.00N 079-09.00W,
      28-11.00N 078-47.00W, 28-04.00N 078-49.00W,
      28-03.00N 079-12.00W, 28-20.00N 080-02.00W.
   D. 27-00.00N 063-00.00W, 28-00.00N 059-00.00W,
      27-00.00N 059-00.00W, 26-00.00N 063-00.00W.
   E. 23-30.00N 063-00.00W, 21-30.00N 058-30.00W,
      20-30.00N 058-30.00W, 22-30.00N 063-00.00W.
   F. 28-45.00N 049-00.00W, 30-45.00N 049-00.00W,
      32-00.00N 044-00.00W, 30-00.00N 044-00.00W.
   G. 17-00.00N 048-45.00W, 13-30.00N 041-30.00W,
      11-30.00N 041-30.00W, 15-00.00N 048-45.00W.
2. CANCEL THIS MSG 062238Z MAR 23.

It does not match a scheduled space launch (I initially considered the Terran 1 inaugural launch but noted that the dates do not match) and the seven hazard areas A to G create a pattern with a weird "forked" character, with one leg (A-C-B-E-G) being more or less a straight ballistic trajectory, the other (A-C-B-F-H) suggesting a dog-leg variant.

Twitter user Aerospace001 provided a photograph showing something TEL-like erected at SLC-46:

..and the suggestion that this is a test of LRHW, the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon under development by the US Army.

Below is a highly simplified reconstruction of what the test might entail, going from the notion that it is a missile test. If it is in fact a hypersonic glider test, the yellow parts of the two trajectory variants might actually look quite different in reality, as such a glider does not follow a ballistic trajectory as depicted, but might manoeuver both in altitude and laterally to the trajectory. 

Both trajectory legs depicted might indicate two variants for the test, possibly at least two test shots.

click map to enlarge

It will be interestingly to see whether or not news on this will follow from the US DoD in the coming days.

More backgrounds on LRHW and this possible test in this article by Tyler Rogoway in the Drive.

UPDATE [6 March 2023 17:05 UTC]:

USA Today reporter Emre Kelly reports on Twitter that DoD sources confirmed a hypersonic test was planned, but that it has been scrubbed.

More also here. Seems a battery issue caused the scrub.

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