Northrop-built defense satellites ready for launch

Space Tracking and Surveillance System embodies major advances in ballistic missile defense

After more than a decade of program difficulties, two demonstration satellites of the Space and Tracking Surveillance System (STSS) will be launched in mid-September, reports Colin Clark in DOD Buzz.

It will be a moment of both excitement and anxiety for employees of Northrop Grumman Corp. If the satellites perform as intended, it could mean billions of new business if similar projects are funded.

At present, though, no more STSS satellites are planned. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the organization that oversees the project, would have to fund a new program. That’s problematic at best given the current funding environment.

The STSS demonstration satellites “communicate” with the MDA’s Ballistic Missile Defense System Test Bed through the Missile Defense Space Experimentation Center ground station, according to information on Northrop Grumman's Web site.

The demonstration satellites are designed to detect and track missiles in all phases of flight. The aim of the demonstration mission is to evaluate STSS overall capabilities and how the system functions together with other parts of a multi-layered missile defense.

If it works as planned, STSS would enhance the ability of the United States to shoot down incoming missiles and also reduce the number of ground stations needed for missile tracking.

The program has been hampered by cost overruns and scrutinized by the General Accountability Office. A classified STSS payload was launched in May.

The launch window at Cape Canaveral, Fla., for the STSS demonstration satellites is Sept. 15-16, reports Spaceflight Now.

Northrop Grumman also has missile defense work with other defense agencies. The company announced in May that it planned to bid on phase two of the Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, Defense Systems reported.


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