Friday, April 16, 2010

USAF Eyes July SBSS Launch, New Space Fence

USAF Eyes July SBSS Launch, New Space Fence: "

U.S. Air Force officials say the first Space-Based Space Surveillance satellite is set to launch July 8 from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. on a Minotaur IV rocket, and another SBSS spacecraft is likely to be purchased to add capacity in orbit.

The Boeing/Ball Aerospace satellite is the first designed specifically to surveil objects in space from space. It features a two-axis gimballed visible light sensor capable of spotting objects in geosynchronous orbit from its low-Earth orbit. The Air Force has lacked this data since the demise of a space-based visible sensor on the Missile Defense Agency’s MSX satellite in 2008.

The requirements for a second SBSS spacecraft have not changed, pointing to the need to buy a clone of the first, according to Col. Stephen Butler, the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) space situational awareness lead. A second satellite would improve the revisit rate, or number of times in a given time period the SBSS system can spot a particular object. ‘The first sensor is the first step,’ says Col. J.R. Jordan, vice commander of the wing that oversees procurement of space superiority technologies for the Air Force.

Eventually, AFSPC will likely purchase a follow on to SBSS, but that is unlikely near-term and requirements have not yet been set, Butler says. It is likely, however, there will be a competition to build the system, Jordan adds.

The first SBSS satellite is expected to last at least seven years in orbit. Once boosted, in-orbit checkout should take less than 200 days, Jordan says.

The satellite was procured by the Air Force under an $823 million fixed price contract.

SBSS will provide day/night surveillance whereas ground-based electro-optical systems can only capture data at night.

Butler says that he expects a new Space Fence, a series of new ground-based S-band radars, will deliver its first new site in  Australia in Fiscal 2015. Two more sites are expected, including another one overseas and one on U.S. soil.

Raytheon and Lockheed Martin have been forming competing designs for the space fence. However, in parallel, the Air Force is still refining requirements. Air Force Lt. Gen. John Sheridan, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, says that -- for example -- the radar size hasn't yet been determined.


(Via On Space.)

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