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Just Passing By: Members of the 1st Air and Space Test Squadron successfully launched a Chimera launch vehicle, a modified Minuteman booster, into space on Sept. 23 from Vandenberg AFB Calif., to support a Missile Defense Agency tracking experiment. They succeeded in essentially “threading a needle” by placing the Chimera’s third stage up close to the MDA’s on-orbit near field infrared experiment so that this research satellite could collect high- and low-resolution images of the boosting rocket. (NFIRE has been in orbit since April 2007.) The satellite’s data on the missile’s exhaust plume and on differentiating the plume from the rocket’s body will help in the design of boost-phase missile defense systems, MDA has said. (Includes Vandenberg report by 2nd Lt. Raymond Geoffroy)