The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA)’s Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) satellites, built by Northrop Grumman, have far surpassed their four-year on-orbit design life, completing the tenth year of space operations.
Still in operation today, the STSS satellites continue to provide critical support for missile and national defense.
Two STSS satellites were launched into low Earth orbit (LEO) in 2009 abroad a single Delta II launch vehicle and proved the operational value of space-based precision mid-course ballistic missile tracking. STSS has tracked ballistic missiles through all phases of flight and in 2013 demonstrated the “launch on remote” capability, which significantly expands the defended area of a U.S. Navy Aegis-equipped guided-missile cruiser.
STSS is designed to be the low earth orbiter within the layered Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). It complements the geosynchronous Defense Support Program (DSP), the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS), and other Overhead Non-Imaging Infrared systems (ONIR) and provides tracking cues to systems on the surface.
“STSS proved that space-based assets could significantly improve our nation’s missile defense capability and paved the way for future systems,” said Bob Mehltretter, vice president, military and civil space, Northrop Grumman. “Being able to track missiles from low Earth orbit allows threats to be engaged earlier in the process using existing interceptors.”
“Northrop Grumman is leveraging all the experience we gained from our legacy OPIR [Overhead Persistent Infrared] systems – STSS, DSP, and SBIRS – to develop our nation’s future OPIR programs,” said Mehltretter.