Jeffrey LewisNFIRE Delayed

Defense (subscription) reports that MDA has delayed the Near Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE) to early 2006. Victoria Samson wrote a nice summary for the CDI Space Security Update.

NFIRE is a risk reduction effort for the space-based interceptor and will integrate a kill vehicle (KV) into the payload. The delay results from the bipartisan Congressional decision last year to cut the space-based interceptor program (which is funded out of a program called BMDS Interceptors). Last year, Congress cut (p.596) the BMDS Interceptor program by $150 million and ordered MDA to reprogram the remaining money in the program to focus on ground-based interceptors. In the end, MDA claims to have reprogrammed about $37.5 of the $82 million identified for NFIRE in the 2004 request.

The Near Field Infra Red Experiment (NFIRE) satellite will collect data on the characteristics of missile plumes and hardbodies outside the atmosphere, as well space and Earth horizon backgrounds. MDA will conduct two missile “fly-bys” to allow NFIRE “a close-up view of a burning ICBM at conditions that are truly real world.” During the second test, NFIRE will simulate an engagement by launching “a kill vehicle for a fly-by of a burning missile.” MDA is not attempting to hit the ballistic missile and the KV lacks an axial stage that would allow the KV to conduct engagements in real world conditions. NFIRE is, as far as I can tell, an unnecessarily expensive and provocative way to collect this kind of data.

For those of you who want to see this year/’s R2, NFIRE is funded as “Experimentation & Test” in Ballistic Missile Defense System Interceptor Block 2010 (PE 0603886C). MDA is requesting $68 million for the project in 2005. If R2 and PE seem like jargon, don/’t kill yourself with MDA/’s description: I/’ve written a brief fact sheet about NFIRE.