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Missile Defense Kill Vehicle Tested: The Missile Defense Agency said it launched a three-stage Ground-Based Interceptor from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., over the weekend that deployed an upgraded version of Raytheon's Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle in space. This flight test was not an intercept attempt of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system that protects the United States from long-range ballistic missiles. Instead, this flight was meant to evaluate the modified EKV's performance, states the agency's release on Jan. 26, the same day as the test. Back in December 2010, an EKV, which is designed to destroy a missile's warhead by colliding with it, did not hit the target during a GMD intercept attempt over the Pacific Ocean. Findings from MDA's failure review board resulted in modifications to the EKV, according to MDA. The agency said the upgraded EKV executed a variety of pre-planned maneuvers to collect performance data during its Jan. 26 flight over the Pacific. "Initial indications are that all components performed as designed," states the release. This test is "the critical first step in returning GMD to successful intercept testing," said MDA. (See also Raytheon's release.)