Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Missile Defense: Video of Next Generation Missile Tracking Satellite Launch

Here's an update from Closing Velocity regarding the "Space Tracking and Surveillance System. And, as always, he provides a great video to watch.

Successfully launched by a massive Delta II yesterday from Vandenberg AFB, the Missile Defense Agency's experimental Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS)-Advanced Technology Risk Reduction mission is the first step in greatly expanding our ability to track hostile ballistic missiles:

MDA officials were especially tight-lipped about the spacecraft, saying some aspects were classified. However, they did say the $400 million mission should extend for a year.

“MDA is pursuing a space-based sensor layer to detect missile launches, provide continuous target tracking, and pass track data to missile defense interceptors with the accuracy and timeliness necessary to enable successful target interception,” the agency said.

Currently, our missile defense satellite fleet consists primarily of Defense Support Program (DSP) launch detection birds --- but there's not much else up there to provide real-time high fidelity tracking once the hostile missile has left the pad. Ground based sensors like Thule and the SBX are currently the tracking workhorses. With STSS we'll get a brand new set of space-based eyes that will provide much earlier tracking data, and two more are scheduled to go up this summer:
The Vandenberg blastoff is a preview for a rocket launch this summer from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., carrying two STSS demonstration spacecraft for MDA.

Aaaaaand of course, there's something oh so morally wrong about defending ourselves:
The missile-defense launch brought a handful of protesters to Vandenberg’s main gate, Air Force officials said. The protest apparently lasted less than an hour.

UPDATE: For some hard core background on STSS, read this article.
Click to read the rest of the article and the comments

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