The Northrop Grumman [NOC] Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) Demonstration satellites recently showed the ability of the space-based sensors to maximize defended areas through earlier tracking of missiles, thus allowing quicker launches by interceptors, known as a “force multiplier” capability.
“The ability to form a stereo track from STSS sensor data is a significant precursor to demonstrating the ability to support an Aegis Launch on Remote capability,” Doug Young, vice president of missile defense and missile warning programs for the Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector, said Tuesday in a statement.
The two missile defense satellites, primed by Northrop Grumman with Raytheon [RTN] as the sensor payload provider, observed an Aegis test Oct. 6 involving two missile launches within hours of each other from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Hawaii.
This Aegis test event showed the ability of STSS to view a dim medium-range missile, observe the target with both tracking sensors through booster burnout, and continue to observe the spent booster well into the post-boost midcourse phase.
Both STSS satellites transmitted tracking data to the Enterprise Sensors Lab at the Missile Defense Integration and Operations Center at Schriever AFB, Colo., where the information was processed and fused with data from other sensor assets, to form a stereo track of the target vehicle.
The STSS satellites are scheduled to participate in future Aegis test events to demonstrate that their stereo track accuracy is sufficient to enable a successful Aegis launch on remote intercept of a target missile, Young said.
“The launch on remote capability is a force multiplier for the Ballistic Missile Defense System,” he said. “Giving Aegis the ability to launch an interceptor against a target before it comes into its field of view permits earlier intercepts and significantly increases its defendable area. Working closely with the Missile Defense Agency, we continue to push the operational envelope of the STSS Demonstration satellites to help define the requirements of a next-generation missile surveillance and tracking satellite constellation,” he added.
Earlier this month, the companies said the STSS satellites 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 (Defense Daily, Dec. 8).
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.
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.
The on-orbit satellites have been racking up accomplishments since June, tracking ground-based interceptor and Minuteman ICBM test launches, as well as the first dual satellite collect of target, and first target acquisition from a target launched beyond the horizon during a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system test.
In July STSS captured the first track of a resident space object, and in August made the first track of an aircraft.