Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Appendix 4: Undesignated Vehicles
Copyright © 2005-2007 Andreas Parsch

Sandia STARS

In 1985, the Sandia National Laboratories were given the task to develop a launch vehicle for anti-ballistic missile targets as an alternative to boosters using surplus Minuteman I rocket stages. It was feared that the supply of the latter could be depleted by the early 1990s. Sandia based its STARS (Strategic Target System) booster on surplus UGM-27C Polaris A3 SLBMs. In the STARS I configuration, the two Polaris stages were topped by an Orbus I solid-fueled third stage. STARS II adds a so-called ODES (Operations and Deployment Experiments Simulator) fourth stage, which acts like the post-boost vehicle (PBV) in a real ICBM.

Photo: Sandia National Laboratories

The STARS vehicle has seen only limited use so far, possibly because the anticipated shortage of Minuteman boosters did not materialize. The first test launch of a STARS I occurred on 26 February 1993, followed by the first launch of an actual target in August that year. Another target launch in November 2001 failed, but STARS I rockets have been used as target launch vehicles in all tests of the GBI (Ground-Based Interceptor) missile since December 2004. One of these launches was unsuccessful, leading to the abort of the GBI test FT-3 in May 2007. STARS II rockets have been fired only twice, in July 1994 and August 1996, to put multiple test objects on ballistic re-entry trajectories or into low-earth orbits.


Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!

Data for STARS I:

Length11.5 m (37 ft 9 in)
Diameter1.37 m (4 ft 6 in)
Weight16500 kg (36400 lb)
Ceiling2500 km (1550 miles)
Range5500 km (3420 miles)
Propulsion1st stage: Aerojet General solid-fueled rocket
2nd stage: Hercules X-260 solid-fueled rocket
3rd stage: UTC Orbus 1 solid-fueled rocket; 13.4 kN (3000 lb) for 39 s

Main Sources

[1] Ballistic Missile Defense: Current Status of Strategic Target System, U.S. General Accounting Office Report GAO/NSIAD-95-78, 1995
[2] Jonathan McDowell: Launch Vehicles Database

Back to Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, Appendix 4

Last Updated: 15 October 2007