The Leap to Space: Is This What Astronauts Saw Battling Above Earth?


LEAP is a kinetic energy weapon that destroys its target through high-velocity impact alone. This program is developing and integrating technology for SDI related missions.

Lightweight projectile technology is essential to developing a cost-effective SDI system and has application to both space and ground based interceptors. The LEAP program will produce multiple, fully integrated terminal homing test projectiles for flight test by SDIO. Program accomplishments include advanced composite structures, midwave infrared terminal miniature homing seeker, Interferometric Fiber Optic Gyro inertial measurement unit, high-throughput data and signal processors, and alternative solid and liquid divert propulsion systems for maneuver and attitude control.

Rocketdyne developed a lightweight kinetic vehicle with a visible seeker, and successfully conducted a free flight hover test in July 1990. Boeing is now testing the LEAP projectiles in a hardware-in-the-loop environment (in space). The government will use these test vehicles as pathfinders for testing and conduct independent terminal homing simulations to validate LEAP performance. These tests will demonstrate the ability of LEAP to home on a simulated target.

Two test were planned for 1991. A free flight hover test was conducted at the National Hover Test Facility, Phillips Laboratory, Edwards AFB, CA. Space flight tests were conducted near the end of 1991 at White Sands Missile Test Range. During this test, LEAP was programmed to intercept and destroy a boosting target vehicle (rocket).

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