Military Review

The United States decided to de-orbit the STSS missile attack warning satellites and replace them with new ones


The decision to cease the operation of two experimental missile warning satellites was announced by the US Missile Defense Agency. These satellites, developed by Northrop Grumman Corporation, were launched in 2009. Then it was assumed that they would be in operation for two years, but it turned out that both satellites served for more than ten years.

American columnist Nathan Stroot writes that the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) satellites were created to track ballistic missiles using special infrared Raytheon sensors at an altitude of 1350 kilometers above the Earth's surface. The received sensing data was transmitted to the missile defense system to intercept missiles. Infrared sensors work 24 hours a day, tracking ballistic missiles around the world.

In 2013, the STSS satellite sent tracking data to a US Navy cruiser. An interceptor was launched from the ship, successfully destroying the ballistic missile. Thus, the system has shown a fairly high degree of efficiency in a critical situation. It would seem that the experiment with missile warning satellites would go on and on, but certain difficulties arose.

The Missile Defense Agency originally requested $ 34,1 million to support the satellite program in its fiscal 2021 budget request. As a cost justification, it was pointed out that satellites continue to provide missile warning and support testing of future missile tracking systems.

But soon the plans for further operation had to be abandoned: the agency's specialists found that outdated control systems and depleted fuel reserves make the further operation of satellites irrational. Moreover, a new constellation of missile attack warning satellites has appeared, which is more modern and technically advanced.

As a result, on May 11, MDA director John Hill announced the imminent abandonment of experimental satellites, but did not name the exact time for their de-orbiting. Hill only stressed that the satellites will be de-orbited over the next two years, followed by replacement with new vehicles.

At the same time, the US Missile Defense Agency does not abandon the further implementation of the concept of tracking and intercepting missiles using space-based sensors. In collaboration with the Space Development Agency, MDA is working on a hypersonic space tracking sensor to alert the Pentagon of a potential threat from Russian or Chinese hypersonic missiles.

The high speed, maneuverability and low altitude of some modern missiles make them difficult targets for our missile defense systems.

- highlighted in the MDA statement.

In this situation, the agency notes, missile attack warning satellites make it possible to track the missile's path and, accordingly, control emerging missile threats to instantly neutralize them.

In January 2021, the Missile Defense Agency signed contracts with L3Harris corporations - for $ 133 million, and Northrop Grumman - for $ 155 million. Both companies will develop prototypes of new HBTSS missile warning satellites.

It is planned that HBTSS will interact with a group of satellites equipped with SDA infrared sensors, receiving information from them and then broadcasting it directly to the armed forces, which will direct and launch interceptors to destroy enemy missiles. The US Missile Defense Agency estimates that the first SDA satellites will be launched in 2022 and experimental prototypes HBTSS in 2023.
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  1. Invoce
    Invoce 14 May 2021 12: 31
    “The high speed, maneuverability and low altitude of some modern missiles make them difficult targets for our missile defense systems.

    It makes no sense to use satellites with an efficiency of 10-15%.
    Hypersonic missiles and warheads flying through the South Pole are still impossible to intercept. Moreover, in conditions of a limited budget, financial deficit, etc.
    It also seems to me that the Pentagon needs to master new programs (it needs money) and for this it is necessary to convince Congress about the inefficiency of the previous systems.
    1. military_cat
      military_cat 14 May 2021 14: 38
      Previous systems clearly worked with a margin of safety, they even detected the launches of anti-aircraft missiles, which are less than intercontinental ones. Thus, they determined earlier than others that the Tu-154 over the Black Sea was shot down by the Ukrainians, and the Boeing in Iran by the Iranians.
      1. xorek
        xorek 14 May 2021 17: 42
        It seems that the Amers, as in the times of the USSR, again want to spin us into an arms race, like the SDI program (cartoons were shown) ..
        I hope Russia will not behave! We have our own program and heavy-class launch vehicles have already been created and ready. The race will not be "gentlemen".
  2. vadimtt
    vadimtt 14 May 2021 12: 44
    Campaign, just established the fact of compromise (hacking) of the control system laughing
    1. Blackmokona
      Blackmokona 14 May 2021 13: 19
      The satellites who want to mix have already served 6.5 of the planned dates and are planning to keep it until new ones are created
  3. rotmistr60
    rotmistr60 14 May 2021 12: 44
    The old ones are being de-orbited, so new ones will be launched. They do not yet experience a shortage of greens and are constantly shouting about Russian and Chinese threats.
    1. donavi49
      donavi49 14 May 2021 13: 16
      if we talk about early warning, then the day after tomorrow the atlas flies with a military satellite of the SBIRS type

      if we talk about interesting things in general, tomorrow the private Space Chapel will launch 5 and 6 radar reconnaissance / earth sensing satellites, with additional load to the Starlinks.

      A special feature is the small size, which is achieved by an innovative system for opening the mirror in space.
  4. Narak-zempo
    Narak-zempo 14 May 2021 14: 06
    Here's where to hit while they are blind.
    1. vadim dok
      vadim dok 14 May 2021 16: 38
      So they are still OPERATING! These satellites will be on duty (fully operational) for at least another 2 ÷ 3 years until new ones are launched!
    2. The comment was deleted.