WASHINGTON — Millennium Space Systems, a subsidiary of Boeing, won a $414 million contract from the Space Development Agency to produce specialized satellites aimed at detecting and tracking hypersonic missile threats, the agency announced April 30. 

Under the agreement, Millennium will build eight satellites equipped with advanced infrared and optical sensors, provide the ground system and support in-orbit operations. 

Millennium’s satellites are for a program called Fire-control On Orbit-support-to-the-war Fighter (FOO Fighter), which seeks to demonstrate technologies in support of a network of satellites being developed by SDA known as the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture.

The PWSA is an ambitious effort to create a resilient network of hundreds of small, mass-produced satellites operating in low-Earth orbit to support military operations, including the detection and tracking of enemy missiles.

SDA plans to launch the FOO Fighter satellites in the first quarter of fiscal year 2027.

“FOO Fighter, or F2, will demonstrate advanced missile defense capability by incorporating fire control-quality sensors into a prototype constellation,” Derek Tournear, SDA director, said in a statement. 

Tracking hypersonic missiles

Having sensors in space that can reliably detect and track hypersonic missiles is a crucial capability that SDA is pursuing. These weapons can travel at more than five times the speed of sound and are highly maneuverable, making them extremely difficult to shoot down. 

“The FOO Fighter program will provide an operational demonstration of fire control efforts separate from, but complementary to, our missile warning/missile tracking and missile defense efforts already underway,” Tournear said. 

The F2 satellites, for example, will demonstrate technologies to collect precise tracking data, and help guide interceptor missiles to destroy the threats in-flight. This so-called “fire control” capability allows the tracking and targeting data to flow between satellites, ground systems, and interceptor missiles.

The F2 constellation is a classified program. SDA issued a request for bids Dec. 1, 2023, and proposals were due Jan. 19.

This is Millenium Space’s first award as a prime contract for SDA’s proliferated constellation. The agency buys satellites from multiple prime contractors

Jason Kim, CEO of Millennium Space, said in a statement that FOO Fighter is a “no kidding, critical mission that will help protect our country and allies against advanced threats.”

“The mission engineering we’ve done is grounded in modeling and simulation exercises, allowing us to understand the payload and its applicability to mission execution,” Kim said.

Kay Sears, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space, Intelligence & Weapon Systems, said the F2 award is a major win for Millennium Space. “The FOO Fighter program is a pathfinder in pushing the right mix of innovation, capability and pace for our most critical customer mission demands,” Sears said in a statement.

“When it comes to advanced threats, like hypersonic missile systems, it’s critical the U.S. military has fire-control quality tracks to protect our country and allies, and that’s what our subsidiary Millennium Space Systems brings with FOO Fighter,” said Michelle Parker, vice president of Boeing Space Mission Systems.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...