US launches prototype satellites for hypersonic missile tracking 27/02/2024 | Fabio Di Felice

The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Space Development Agency (SDA) confirmed the successful launch of 6 prototype hypersonic and ballistic missile tracking sensor satellites into Low-Earth Orbit. They have been launched from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space using SpaceX's FALCON 9 rocket. In detail, the launch included 2 satellites for MDA’s hypersonic and ballistic tracking space sensor (HBTSS) and 4 SDA Tranche 0 (T0) tracking layer satellites for its Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA).

MDA Director, Lieutenant General Heath Collins, announced that this launch represents a new phase of missile warning, tracking, and defense, thus these HBTSS satellites are considered essential for keeping the US edge on their adversaries. The new space sensors should provide increased fire control quality data required to defeat advanced missile threats, such as hypersonic glide-phase weapons, by linking missile defense weapons bypassing terrestrial radars.

MDA started the HBTSS program in 2018. The last launch of the 2 prototype systems will be followed by 2 years of on-orbit testing. Indeed, MDA and SDA engineers, together with the Space Force personnel, will run a series of tests and procedures to ensure the satellites are operating and can be integrated with the rest of the US Missile Defense System. SDA, as part of the US Space Force, previously deployed 23 Tranche 0 satellites on orbit in 2023, including Transport and Tracking Layer satellites, from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. The 4 SDA Tracking Layer satellites were delivered by L3Harris Technologies and represent the final satellites in the Tranche 0 program bringing the on-orbit constellation to 27.

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