COVID-19 has affected many things in 2020 and travel has been a big one! Due to these new travel restrictions, essential personnel were prevented from traveling to Vandenberg Air Force Base to assist a high-fidelity, joint U.S. Air Force/National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) flight test in support of the Minuteman III missile.
The Minuteman III missile is a rocket designed to stand ready for launch for long periods of time. The missile was named after the Colonial Minutemen of the American Revolutionary War, who could be ready to fight on short notice. The test flight request required for the Kansas City National Security Campus (KCNSC) to provide a Neutron Generator Monitor Kit to be delivered within a week or two when standard flowtime is around four months. The kits are important because they ensure performance of critical weapon components as part stockpile surveillance flight testing.
In early June, Sean Dennis, Lead Program Manager, immediately pulled his team together to get a status of what parts in the kit were available and what work remained to be completed. Their task was to evaluate the status of the Neutron Generator Monitors to determine if a plan could be executed to support the hurried request. They quickly determined that most of the hardware was available, but not all. Out-of-the-box thinking concluded that parts could become available but the Neutron Generator Monitor Assemblies would have to be built and standard flow times showed they needed months to build the assemblies. Extraordinary effort would be required to meet the customer’s request.
“Though the deadline seemed impossible to meet, I thought it was important to make our best effort to meet the ship date,” said Dennis. Many logged 12-hour days during the week and the weekend to complete the builds within weeks and worked closely with telemetry engineering to organize the work and maximize parallel processes to not have any down time.
“This was the fastest a Neutron Generator Monitor Kit has ever been built.” said Paul Hern, Telemetry Engineering Technical Manager.
On August 4, 2020, the unarmed Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Reentry vehicles traveled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, successfully verifying the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system and providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.
“This visible message of national security serves to assure our allies and dissuade potential aggressors,” said Col. Omar Colbert, US Air Force 576th Flight Test Squadron commander.
To learn more about the KCNSC, visit www.kcnsc.doe.gov