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US says test missile bagged in space by another missile

The United States for the first time successfully destroyed a test missile outside Earth's atmosphere with another missile, Defense Department officials said Monday. They said Sunday's successful interception of one missile by another followed three earlier failures.

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The Army chief of information, Maj. Gen. Lyle Barker, told reporters, ''This was the first known missile intercept, not only for the United States, but for the world.''

The aim of the test, called ''Homing Overlay Experiment'' (HOE), is to develop a nonnuclear weapon able to knock down Soviet missiles outside the atmosphere - at least 60 miles above Earth, defense officials said. HOE research is part of President Reagan's ''Star Wars'' initiative, an effort to develop nonnuclear technology able to destroy incoming Soviet ballistic missiles.

Officials said this would save valuable time in case of an enemy attack, because it would not require the presidential approval necessary to launch a nuclear device.

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