The Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) demonstration program satellites, built by Northrop Grumman [NOC] and Raytheon [RTN], detected the test launch of a Minuteman III ICBM on Sept. 17 and tracked it through the boost and post-boost phases for the first time, the companies said recently.
The single reentry test vehicle from the missile traveled approximately 5,300 miles to a pre-determined point about 200 miles southwest of Guam, according to the Air Force. The missile defense satellites transmitted tracking data to the Missile Defense Integration and Operations Center at Schriever AFB, Colo., where the information is being analyzed.
“STSS acquired the target during the boost phase and continued to track post-boost using multiple track sensor infrared bands for the first time,” said Doug Young, vice president of missile defense and missile warning programs for Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems sector. “This test demonstrated the ability of STSS to track cold-body objects post-boost, an important capability needed by the Missile Defense Agency for the Ballistic Missile Defense System.”
Earlier in September, STSS successfully autonomously acquired and tracked a threat representative short range ballistic missile that was launched during an MDA test involving the Airborne Laser Test Bed, Northrop Grumman said in a press statement.
MDA is pursuing the STSS Demonstration program as a space-based sensor component of missile defense. The satellites are demonstrating the ability of space sensors to provide high-precision, real-time tracking of missiles and midcourse objects, enabling simultaneous theater, regional and strategic missile defense.
Data from STSS testing is validating the ability to acquire and track missiles in all phases of flight, to close the fire control loop with interceptors from space and supporting the development of a future operational missile defense satellite constellation.