US Launches Six Hypersonic, Ballistic Tracking Space Sensors

SpaceX launched six US missile-detection satellites to low-Earth orbit on Wednesday.

They include two Missile Defense Agency Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) satellites and the final four Space Development Agency (SDA) Tranche 0 Tracking Layer satellites of the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture.

Of the 27 Tranche 0 satellites in orbit, 19 perform data transport and communications, with the remainder devoted to missile warning.

Incorporating HBTSS Experience

“Launching our Tracking satellites into the same orbit with the [Missile Defense Agency] HBTSS satellites is a win for both agencies,” SDA director Derek Tournear said

“We’ll be able to look at test targets from the same orbit at the same time, so that we can see how the two sensors work together.”

“In Tranche 1, SDA will fly both sensor types as an operational system – medium-field-of-view demonstrating fire control, based on HBTSS design, and wide-field-of-view doing warning and tracking, based on T0 tracking design.”

Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor 

Meanwhile, the HBTSS detects and tracks ballistic and maneuvering hypersonic missiles flying beyond the range of current ballistic missile detection systems.

It has greater sensitivity to the lower heat signatures of hypersonic missiles.

The HBTSS will be able to detect hypersonic, ballistic, and other advanced threats earlier than terrestrial radars and provide tracking data to interceptors.

The launch of two HBTSS prototypes will be followed by two years of in-orbit testing.

“SDA will build upon the fire-control capability successes learned from HBTSS and proliferate those fully developed capabilities in the spiral approach to future tranches,” the Missile Defense Agency explained.

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