Alaskan rocket destroyed

The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A rocket fired from Alaska’s Kodiak Launch Complex had to be destroyed seconds after liftoff Friday when trackers lost communication with it.

It was the first time a rocket used in testing for the missile defense program had to be destroyed after launch, said Col. Rick Lehner, spokesman for the missile defense program in Washington, D.C.

The rocket was launched from the complex, operated by the Alaska Aerospace Development Corp., at 9:12 a.m. It was destroyed 52 seconds later when launch officials lost telemetry data and data transmission, Lehner said.

"It seems to be a telemetry problem, and safety rules dictate that, if you lose that type of data transmission, you have to destroy the missile," Lehner said.

Despite the loss of data, the rocket remained on course until it was destroyed. Lehner said a board would investigate. It could take weeks to figure out what caused the problem, he said.

The missile’s pieces dropped into the ocean and were spread over an area 17 to 45 miles from the island, Lehner said.

The military had announced Wednesday that it planned to launch the rocket sometime between Friday and Nov. 21, but would not give the exact time and date, citing security concerns after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Coast Guard had warned mariners to stay out of the launch clearance area because of the possibility of falling debris, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Douglas Green.

The rocket was launched to learn more about how ground-based radar systems in California would pick up the characteristics of a warhead and decoys in space, Lehner said.

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