A Pivotal Missile Defense Role

by












  Space News Business

A Pivotal Missile Defense Role

By JEREMY SINGER
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 22 July 2008
03:03 pm ET







— The Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site (RTS) plays a critical role in the military’s missile defense testing and space situational awareness work from its remote location on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands

However, a significant portion of the work that is handled on the island today will be executed remotely from its parent agency, the Army Space and Missile Defense Command in ,

While the RTS Distributed Operations Project, which began in 2006, currently enables some command and control functions to be handled remotely in through satellite links, most RTS missions, such as missile defense target launches and space surveillance sensor operations, will be handled by beginning in 2011 via an undersea fiber optic cable, according to RTS officials.

Offloading functions to under the RTS Distributed Operations Project will play a significant role in helping RTS meet a tightening budget despite the organizations’ increasing workload, officials said in a written response to questions provided by RTS spokeswoman Vanessa Peeden. RTS has a current budget of approximately $200 million, but that figure is slated to reduce gradually over the next five years, eventually dropping by more than $30 million, the officials said.

“The move to is proactive to balance between threat, technology and resources,” the officials said. “As resources decline and requirements increase, advanced technology is being used to achieve the balance.”

Preliminary estimates show the move to could save more than $20 million annually, the officials said. RTS currently has about 800 employees, including uniformed military, government civilians and contractors. More than 100 positions could shift to as a result of the RTS Distributed Operations effort, they said.

The RTS Distributed Operations effort required an investment in network technology that totaled roughly $25 million for five years, not including the funds to lay undersea fiber optic cable that will pass high-bandwidth communications traffic between the island and , the officials said.

On behalf of RTS, the Defense Information Systems Agency awarded a 10-year, $101- million contract June 11 to TKC Technology Solutions LLC, , for the fiber optic cable.��

Specific functions that are scheduled to move from Kwajalein to include mission planning and execution, data management, sensor control�� and systems engineering, the officials said.

“Missions will be conducted with additional automation through an improved concept of operations with serving as the primary command and control site,” the officials said. “RTS will have improved interoperability with other test ranges and will routinely share data with other ranges and users through an enhanced open systems architecture. Customer planning will be streamlined as planning functions will be consolidated and conveniently located with users in [the continental ]. execution data products will be readily available to users thereby minimizing quick look and data analysis delays post mission.”

Functions that will remain in include special mission command and control, and sensor maintenance and modernization, as well as some support of launch, communications and meteorology operations, the officials said.

Missile Defense���

RTS has long played a significant role in missile defense intercept tests. As the Pentagon conducts intercept tests that more closely reflect operational scenarios, the remote, open-ocean location is one of the few spots that can accommodate realistic flight paths, the officials said.

In the near future, more realistic tests, including tests with multiple targets and simultaneous interceptors, could take place at RTS, the officials said. RTS is working on range safety solutions to address these more complex scenarios, they said.

Another upcoming test is a Flexible Target Family launch in spring 2009 for the Missile Defense Agency from Merk , which is located about 32 kilometers from , the officials said. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense program also might begin testing at RTS in the near future, the officials said.

In the decade to come, RTS will host tests of NATO’s Medium Extended Air Defense System as well as demonstrations of the Missile Defense Agency’s Multiple Kill Vehicle, the officials said.

Space Situational Awareness���

hosts a variety of sensors that play an important role in helping U.S. Strategic Command keep tabs on objects in orbit. RTS’ location gives it an excellent vantage point to monitor launches from most Asian launch sites. RTS also provides intelligence data on satellites in their initial revolution, as well as geo-transfer orbital insertions and geosynchronous orbits, the officials said.

‘s space surveillance assets include the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) Long-Range Tracking and Instrumentation Radar, which is the farthest tracking radar in the world, and is used to search for newly launched satellites and those that may have moved off course due to maneuvers or atmospheric drag, the officials said. The sensor also is used, along with the Target Resolution and Discrimination Experiment radar sensor at Kwajalein, to assist collision avoidance work, the officials said.

Other space surveillance sensors at RTS include the Millimeter Wave radar, which the officials said is the world’s highest-resolution imaging radar, and the ARPA Lincoln C-Band Observables Radar. Those two sensors are used to generate detailed images showing information about a satellite’s health, they said.

In addition to its military-related work, RTS hosts space surveillance sensors that monitor orbital debris for NASA. The High Accuracy Network Orbit Determination System, which is operated remotely from the Maui Space Surveillance System facility in , includes a telescope with half-meter resolution, the RTS officials said. In the months to come, RTS will install the Meter Class Autonomous Telescope, which also will be operated from

While RTS has no plans at this time for additional new space surveillance instruments, it is improving its current systems, including a new transmitter tube for the Millimeter Wave radar that will improve the sensor’s ability to take high-resolution imagery of small satellites, official said.

RTS’ ability to rapidly provide space situational awareness data through its ground-based sensors also could fit into the Pentagon’s Operationally Responsive Space effort, the officials said. Small satellite launches under the Operationally Responsive Space effort could mean more work for the range, which already has supported small rocket launches by Space Exploration Technologies of El Segundo, Calif., and Orbital Sciences Corp. of ,


RTS at a Glance

Headquarters: Atoll

Commander: U.S. Army Lt. Col. Harold Buhl

Parent Organization: Army Space and Missile Defense Command

Current Budget: Approximately $200 million

Mission: To support missile defense testing, space launch, and space

surveillance.

Year Established: 1960 as the Kwakalein ; renamed Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site