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HomeNewsSpace assets are critical to countering hypersonic threats

Space assets are critical to countering hypersonic threats

Invisible threats cannot be easily defeated. If the threat is traveling at Mach 5, you have just minutes to make a decision.

Competitors already have operational hypersonic missiles, as demonstrated in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s reported launch of a hypersonic glider off the Taiwan Strait, and have no such weapons. has made the ability to detect and repel them a top priority for the Department of Defense. Fortunately, there are efforts to do just that.

The space agency recently announced that it has won contracts with L3Harris Technologies and Northrop Grumman to supply 28 infrared tracking satellites in a constellation called Tranche 1 Tracking Layer.

Designed for advanced missile warning and missile defense, this layer is part of a larger national space defense architecture that uses a highly distributed satellite constellation in low earth orbit to provide acquisition and data transfer capabilities. department. Distribution is important. An architecture of hundreds or thousands of small satellites orbiting below 2,000 kilometers altitude provides greater resilience to incoming threats. Simply put, increasing the number of targets significantly reduces your opponent’s chances of success against the entire network.

Each tranche of satellites is delivered in his two-year cycle and builds on the functionality of the previous iteration. The Tranche 1 satellite is scheduled to launch in 2024 and will be equipped with four optical links between satellites, enabling high-speed communication and data exchange via point-to-point light beams. These interlinks will allow satellites to locate and track each other, creating a highly secure space-based communications network.

The agency also convinces that low-orbit mesh networks are more cost-effective and easier to distribute and replace than current defenses operating in higher orbit. Low-Earth orbit offers additional advantages for space-based observations, as the closer proximity to the Earth enables high-resolution images for remote sensing.

Advances in infrared sensor technology, championed by government agencies, also promise improved resolution. As pointed out in his June report by Ian Williams, Masao Dahlgren, Thomas G. Roberts, and Tom Karako of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, multiband/multi-megapixel focal his-plane his arrays are infrared can be developed with A camera with high resolution or wide field of view is used. With increased sensitivity, these sensors can improve missile detection and reduce tracking delays.

Deploying a sufficient number of SDA satellites will provide sustained coverage and improve missile warning, data tracking and queuing. This is exactly what you need for hypersonic defense.

“The tracking layer tracks the problem of very specific fighter jets, the next generation of advanced missiles, and therefore intends to contribute to hypersonic combat,” said Frank Turner, director of SDA Technical. Speaking on the Constellations podcast produced by Kratos Defense. “It will completely change the battlefield of the 21st century by helping to alert, track and counter advanced missiles being developed and deployed by adversaries,” Turner added.

Other agencies will also follow this call. The Space Force’s Next Generation Overhead Permanent Infrared Program will deploy her five satellites in multiple orbits to provide enhanced missile warning. Lockheed Martin, which will deliver three geostationary earth-orbit satellites, has selected Raytheon technology to produce the sensor his payload, which is scheduled to launch in the 2025 fiscal year. Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman is working with Ball Aerospace to develop his two polar orbiting satellites, with the first launch scheduled for his 2028. The Missile Defense Agency, in partnership with the Space Force, will begin orbiting a hypersonic ballistic tracking space sensor demonstrator next year. It uses a medium field of view to provide even greater sensitivity and accuracy when projectiles are detected.

The Missile Defense Agency is considering incorporating Crosslink into future iterations of the system to communicate with Space Agency satellites. This is a necessary capability to meet the looming hypersonic threat, according to the June Government Accountability Office report, “Missile Defense: Improved Monitoring and Coordination Needed for Counter-Hypersonic Developments.” His 2023 budget request for the Department of Defense includes his $24.7 billion for defense and anti-missile defense, described as part of the National Integrated Deterrence Strategy. Of that, $4.7 billion is accounted for by space-based missile warning and tracking architectures. Included are the Space Force’s new Resilient Missile Warning Missile Tracking System and the current space-based infrared system, providing enhanced early warning and battlespace awareness capabilities. Both the House and Senate Budget Committees approved the motion with little change, but said they needed more information about the expected costs, opportunities and potential risks. The Senate also wisely recommended additional funding to expand the Space Agency’s missile tracking program and to raise her four additional launches for Tranche 1.

Space resources play an important role in national defense, especially in countering the ever-increasing threat of future high-velocity weapons. The durable and resilient integrated space sensor networks being built today are an important first step towards meeting and combating very serious challenges. The Space Agency and its partners must be allowed to go down this road while others develop means to shut down these missiles once they are detected.

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  • Space assets are critical to countering hypersonic threats
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