ICBM Rocket Test Ends in Explosion Seconds After Launch

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unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches from Vandenberg Space Force Base
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, during an Air Force Global Strike Command operational test, Aug. 11, 2021. (Michael Peterson/U.S. Space Force)

A planned test of a missile rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base ended in a fiery blast late Wednesday night, after the rocket exploded several seconds into the launch.

According to a news release Thursday morning, a Minotaur II and rocket exploded approximately 11 seconds after launching from the military base's test pad at 11:01 p.m.

There were no injuries in the explosion and the debris was contained to the immediate vicinity of the launch pad, according to the release.

The failed launch also sparked a fire on the military base. As of 1 a.m. the Vandenberg Fire Department was on scene for the fire, which was producing smoke "but is no immediate danger to the rest of the base."

"We always have emergency response teams on standby prior to every launch," Col. Kris Barcomb, Space Launch Delta 30 vice commander said in the release. "Safety is our priority at all times."

An investigative review board has been established to determine the cause of the explosion.

The military base was testing the U.S. Air Force's new missile rocket, which is expected to be used with the future LGM-35A Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile.

Both are being developed by the Air Force's Nuclear Weapons Center to will replace the aging Minuteman missiles that have previously been tested at the Central Coast base, located near Lompoc.

Initial releases from military officials indicated the launch was expected for Thursday morning; it is unclear why the test was conducted late Wednesday night instead.

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