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MDA to Deorbit Two Experimental Missile Warning Satellites

Missile Defense Agency

MDA to Deorbit Two Experimental Missile Warning Satellites

The Missile Defense Agency plans to deorbit a pair of experimental missile warning satellites that have been in operation for more than a decade.

MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill confirmed the planned deorbiting of the Space Tracking and Surveillance System during his appearance at the 12th annual McAleese Conference.

Hill attributed the retirement of the STSS satellites to depleted fuel reserves, outdated control systems and the upcoming launch of a new missile warning satellite constellation, C4ISRNET reported.

The Northrop Grumman-built satellites were critical to the MDA’s missile warning enterprise. They were launched in 2009 and were originally intended to operate for just two years.

Using infrared sensors developed by Raytheon, the satellites collect sensing data that is then downloaded to the MDA’s ballistic missile defense system for missile interception.

While Hill did not specify when the satellites would be deorbited, he said they are scheduled to come down in the next couple of years.

With the retirement of the two satellites, the MDA is looking to deploy a new hypersonic and ballistic tracking space sensor. HBTSS will make use of terrestrial sensors to perform birth-to-death tracking of hypersonic missiles.

According to a statement released by the MDA, HBTSS will address difficulties in tracking advanced missile threats, which are not only fast but also fly at relatively low altitudes.

Work on the new space-based sensor is already underway.

The MDA initially awarded L3Harris Technologies a $133 million contract to build an HBTSS prototype on Jan. 14. A similar $155 million contract was awarded to Northrop Grumman on Jan. 22.

The two companies beat out Leidos and Raytheon Technologies to secure the contracts.

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Category: Space

Tags: C4ISRNET Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor Jon Hill MDA Missile Defense Agency missile warning satellites space Space Tracking and Surveillance System