Missile Tracking Sats Take Part in MDA Intercept Test

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A pair of U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) demonstration satellites successfully tracked two missile targets Oct. 5 during an intercept test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, according to Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, which built the spacecraft.

During the test, the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) tracking satellites fed data in real time to the MDA’s battle management system, which develops and executes the plan for the intercept, Redondo Beach, Calif.-based Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems said in a Nov. 14 press release.

The STSS satellites were designed to demonstrate the tracking of ballistic missiles during the midcourse phase of flight as they coast through space. The MDA hopes to deploy a constellation of operational missile tracking satellites that would provide important targeting information to its array of missile interceptors.

The recent flight test took place at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, where one target missile was launched from a C-17 cargo aircraft. The second target was a short-range missile launched from the deck of a decommissioned aircraft carrier. Both targets were successfully intercepted.

“From the STSS satellites’ standpoint, this was a very demanding test covering core capabilities such as hard body detection and post-boost phase tracking,” Doug Young, vice president of missile defense and warning for Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems, said in a statement.

The STSS satellites are expected to participate in all future flight tests of the MDA’s developing missile shield, the agency said.