WASHINGTON — A U.S. Space Force missile warning satellite, six years in the works, is nearly completed. The company that developed the sensor, L3Harris, received a $9.3 million contract on April 6 to maintain and prepare the satellite for launch in 2021.
The contract is for pre-launch and post-launch services for the Wide Field of View missile detection satellite. L3Harris developed a staring sensor that was mounted on a satellite bus supplied by Millennium Space Systems, a subsidiary of Boeing.
The U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center plans to send the satellite to geosynchronous Earth orbit no earlier than August 2021.
The Wide Field of View, or WFOV, satellite will be part of a rideshare mission known as USSF-12, currently scheduled for no earlier than August 2021 on a United Launch Alliance rocket.
WFOV is a “testbed” satellite that is not part of a missile-warning constellation but a stand-alone experiment. At 1,000 kilograms, it’s about one-fourth the size of the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) spacecraft that currently perform strategic and tactical missile warning for the Defense Department.
The satellite will be used to test different ways to collect and report missile launch data. The research will be used by SMC to design a future missile-warning constellation.
“WFOV will inform the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) programs of record,” a spokesperson said in a statement. SMC is already developing the Next Generation OPIR Block 0 that is scheduled to launch in 2025. The WFOV experiment will be used to develop technical requirements for OPIR Block 1.
One of the goals is to use WFOV data to develop ground algorithms for processing the larger volume of data expected to come from future sensors, said SMC. “WFOV is not currently planned to be a part of the OPIR operational baseline architecture.” If the experiment is successful, SMC would consider adding WFOV “into the appropriate portion of the architecture.”
The satellite was built with Millennium’s Aquila-M8 mid-size bus. L3Harris has completed the development and integration of the 200 kilogram six-degree staring sensor.
“Millennium is storing the fully integrated Wide Field of View satellite” at the company’s facility in El Segundo, California, a company spokesperson told SpaceNews April 10. “The team is preparing to support mission risk-reduction activities and the pre-shipment review.”