Raytheon and Aerojet have successfully completed a kinetic warhead system integration test for Standard Missile-3 block IB at Aerojet's California, US, facility.
The test was conducted using a fully operational, flight-weight kinetic warhead to verify its ability to detect, track and intercept a moving ballistic missile target in a zero-gravity environment.
The warhead's seeker aimed a simulated target while the guidance computer sent information to the new throttleable divert and attitude control system, demonstrating its fire control loop capability.
Raytheon Air and Missile Defense Systems vice-president Frank Wyatt said the test indicated that the first SM-3 block IB intercept in space was likely to take place this year.
"The Raytheon SM-3 team remains committed to delivering this critical capability to the fleet in 2012," he added.
Raytheon's next-generation SM-3 block IB will be deployed in both sea-based and land-based modes, and is developed as part of the Missile Defense Agency's Aegis ballistic missile defense system.
The missiles are currently deployed with the US and Japanese Navies to defend against short to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats.