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STSS Demonstrator Mission


Tyneside, UK
2018 Jan 20
Saturday, Day 20

Maintained by:









Sensor Tests:










Elsewhere:

Press Release - mentions "Emerging Technologies"
On-orbit Tests

During December 2010, Northrop Grumman, the satellite manufacturer, released a list of test milestones achieved by the STSS Demonstrator satellites.

Some test events had already been identified and there are analyses of them available from the left hand menu. There are some newly-revealed events and more detail in the chronology below.


STSS - Space Tracking and Surveillance System

As the name implies, STSS Demonstrators represent part of a System. The aim is to be able to detect missile launches and to follow the payload throughout the flight, up to the point of impact - the 'mid-course'. Launches can currently be detected by the DSP satellites in geosynchronous orbit. Mid-course detection has until now been difficult because the payload in a relatively-cold body compared with the launcher that emits a large amount of near-visible radiation from the hot exhaust stream. STSS in the round aims to address this by working in conjunction with other satellites and ground-based equipment.


STSS sensor

STSS SensorThe Missile Defence Agency's web site describes the STSS Demonstrator Satellites as capable of detecting visible and infrared light and being able to detect missile launches, provide continuous target tracking, and communicate with missile defense command and control systems.

The fixed sensor is the missile detector. Once it receives data matching a launch signature, it passes it to the tracking sensor. The tracking sensor is a movable instrument capable of scanning round to point at targets. As the satellite is oriented in orbit, the sensor pack is located on the underside of the body with the detector pointing downwards. It was built by Raytheon and the version aboard STSS Demonstrator is referred to a "Block 6" type. The illustration here is taken from a Raytheon document.

The two satellites are capable of sharing data autonomously, communicating automatically via a direct laser or radio link between them.


Tracking and Test Events

This list of detection events is based on media releases published by the US Missile defense Agency (MDA) relating to the conduct of missile tests, and Northrop-Grumman for detail of the STSS Demonstrator involvement, and for tests not involving theMDA


Observation of GBI Launch - STSS Demo
Vandenberg AFB
2010 Jun 6, 22:25
STSS Demo TestOne of the STSS Demonstrator satellite pair tracked a Ground Based Interceptor launch. The two-stage missile had no physical target, it delivered an exoatmospheric kill vehicle to a designated point in space. According to Northrop-Grumman, the satellite operated as expected and the system generated high-quality track data while the missile engine was operating. Northrop Grumman summary: * First STSS Object Sighting Messages (OSM) of a missile * First on-board missile track formed Detailed analysis: http://www.zarya.info/Tracking/STSSDemo/STSSDemoMissile0.php The map shows the positions of the STSS Demonstrator satellites at the time the missile was launched. It was generated using the "Orbitron" satellite tracking program and orbital elements from Mike McCants's "classified.zip" elements file.


Observation of Minuteman III ICBM Launch - STSS Demonstrator
Vandenberg AFB
2010 Jun 16, 10:01
STSS Demo TestMinuteman III launched from Vandenberg AFB for impact near Kwajalein. The re-entry vehicle travelled approximately 6750 km in 28 minutes before impact. Northrop Grumman summary: * First dual satellite collect of target, and * First target acquisition from a target launched beyond the horizon Detailed analysis: http://www.zarya.info/Tracking/STSSDemo/STSSDemoMissile1.php The map shows the positions of the STSS Demonstrator satellites at the time the missile was launched. It was generated using the "Orbitron" satellite tracking program and orbital elements from Mike McCants's "classified.zip" elements file.


Detection of Missile Launch - STSS Demonstrator
Pacific Missile Range: MLP near Kauai (Scud), Barking Sands (THAAD)
2010 Jun 29, 06:32
STSS Demo TestScud, or similar, target launched from the Mobile Launch Platform (MLP) at sea within the Pacific Missile Range. Destroyed by interceptor missile launched five minutes later. Northrop Grumman summary: * First Object Sighting Messages sent to Enterprise Sensors Laboratory at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado - for data fusion with other sensors in real time * First tracking of a dim theater missile Detailed analysis: http://www.zarya.info/Tracking/STSSDemo/STSSDemoMissile2.php The map shows the positions of the STSS Demonstrator satellites at the time the target missile was launched. It was generated using the "Orbitron" satellite tracking program and orbital elements from Mike McCants's "classified.zip" elements file.


Tracking of NOAA Satellite - STSS Demonstrator
in orbit
2010 Jul 19
One of the satellites was programmed in advance to track a NOAA weather satellite that was pursuing its own orbit. It was seen both against open space and against the Earth. Northrop Grumman summary: * First tracking of a resident space object * Tracked a NOAA weather satellite for several minutes


Detection of Ground-based Laser - STSS Demonstrator
Starfire Optical Range, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico
2010 Jul 23
One satellite automatically detected laser illumination from the US Air Force Research Laboratory. For the first time, detection sensors handed data over to the tracking sensors. Northrop Grumman summary: * Hand-off demonstration occurred when STSS acquired a ground laser source


Tracking of Short Range Missile - STSS Demonstrator
Atlantic Ocean, California Coast
2010 Sep 1
One of the satellites tracked a fast-moving missile launched as a test for the Airborne Laser Test Bed. Northrop Grumman summary - not sure what it means!: * First autonomous acquisition sensor to track sensor handover of a boosted target


Detection of Minuteman III ICBM Launch
Vandenberg AFB
2010 Sep 17, 10:03
STSS Demo TestDelayed from Sep 15 because of equipment not being "ready". Impact of multiple dummy warheads occurred 320 kilometres south west of the island of Guam around three quarters of an hour later later after a flight of 8,500 kilometres. Northrop Grumman summary: * First post boost track continuation of a target with track sensor * First demonstration of track sensor generating multiple tracks for separating objects See: http://www.zarya.info/Tracking/STSSDemo/STSSDemoMissile3.php The map shows the positions of the STSS Demonstrator satellites at the time the missile was launched. It was generated using the "Orbitron" satellite tracking program and orbital elements from Mike McCants's "classified.zip" elements file.


Detection of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) Missile Launches - STSS Demonstrator
Pacific Missile Range - near Kauai, Hawaii
2010 Oct 5, 05:56
It demonstrated the ability of STSS to view a dim medium-range missile. They observed both targets with the tracking sensors on both satellites until booster shut down, and continued to observe the spent rocket well into the midcourse phase. The satellites transmitted tracking data to the Enterprise Sensors Laboratory at the Missile Defense Integration and Operations Center, Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado for combination with data from other sources to create "stereo" tracks of the targets. The time shown is for firing the first target (an air-launched, medium-range missile dropped from a C-17 cargo aircraft via parachute). The second target (a short-range missile fired from a mobile platform. was launched 160 seconds later hours later. In total, the two intercepts probably took less than 15 minutes to complete. Northrop Grumman summary: * First Track sensor stereo track of a dim boosted target * First stereo post boost tracking of midcourse target


Tracking of NOAA Satellite - STSS Demonstrator
in orbit
2011 Jan 10
Both satellites tracked the satellite while only one fed-back data to the ground. The test proved the cross-link between satellites. The actual NOAA target was not revealed.


Aegis Missile Test - Monitored by STSS Demonstrator
Pacific Ocean
2011 Mar 9
One of the STSS satellites acquired and tracked a target until re-entry during a test designed to validate Aegis system software upgrades. The timing of the target's launch was coordinated between Aegis and STSS to assure visibility to the satellite.


Aegis Missile Test - Monotored by STSS Demonstrator
Pacific Ocean
2011 Mar 15
Both STSS satellites demonstrated full-course tracking during a portion of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's (MDA) Aegis launch on remote campaign. Both satellites acquired the target through their track sensors and followed the missile through re-entry. During the test, the Ground Mission Data Processing software, operating at the Missile Defense Experimentation Center, successfully produced a "stereo," 3-D track of the missile's flight path, predicting its impact point in advance.


Sea-based Missile Interception Tests - Monitored by STSS Demonstrator
Ronald Reagan Missile Test Range, Marshall Islands
2011 Apr 15, 06:52
An intermediate-range ballistic missile target was launched from the Reagan Test Site, located on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The target flew in a northeasterly direction. Following target launch, a forward-based AN/TPY-2 X-band transportable radar, located on Wake Island, detected and tracked the threat missile and transmitted remote target data to the USS O’Kane. The destroyer, located to the west of Hawaii, used the data to develop a fire control solution and launch the SM-3 Block IA missile approximately 11 minutes after the target was launched. The STSS Demonstrator Satellites tracked the target from midcourse to termination.


Missile Interception Tests - Monitored by STSS Demonstrator
Eastern Pacific Ocean
2011 Jul 9, 02:04
The Missile Defense Agency successfully completed a flight test involving the launch of a Short Range Air Launched Target (SRALT) fropped from a C-17 cargo plane at the Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division-Point Mugu Sea Range, California. The SRALT missile was deployed from a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport aircraft over the Pacific Ocean near St Nicholas Island, approximately 800 km west of the California coast. The test was used as a target of opportunity for several emerging missile defense technologies. The two Space Tracking Surveillance System (STSS) demonstration satellites tracked the target and transmitted data to the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). It was the first demonstration of stereo acquisition and track handover of a short range target and showed the satellites' ability to track dim objects that have extremely short flight timelines.


Missile Interception Tests - Monitored by STSS Demonstrator
Pacific Missile Range - near Kauai, Hawaii
2011 Oct 5, 05:56
The BMDS Operational Test Agency (OTA) conducted, with support of the Missile Defense Agency, an operational test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) Element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. During the test, THAAD system engaged and simultaneously intercepted one short-range and one medium-range class ballistic missile target. . The STSS Demonstrator satellite pair were nearby when the test was conducted.


Aegis Ballistic Missile Test - Monitored by STSS Demonstrator
Pacific Missile Range - near Kauai, Hawaii
2012 May 10, 02:18
The USS Lake Erie (CG 70) successfully fired the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) Block 1B, resulting in the first intercept of a short-range ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean The time shown is for launch of the target, interception occurred NW of Hawaii. The complete event probably took less than 15 minutes.


Missile Test Launch - Monitored by STSS Demonstrator
Pacific Missile Range - near Kauai, Hawaii
2012 Jun 27, 09:15
The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and U.S. Navy sailors aboard the USS Lake Erie (CG 70) successfully conducted a flight test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system, resulting in the first intercept of a short-range ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean by the Navy’s newest Missile Defense interceptor, the Standard Missile – 3 (SM-3) Block 1B. Time shown is launch of the target from Kauai, Hawaii. The intercept involved impact by a kinetic energy kill vehicle. The test repeated a similar one from 2012 May 10. The STSS Demonstrator satellites collected infrared data on the target. MDA Press Release: http://www.mda.mil/news/12news0008.html


Aegis Ballistic Missile Test - Monitored by STSS Demonstrator
Pacific Missile Range - near Kauai, Hawaii
2013 Feb 13, 09:10
USS LAKE ERIE (CG 70) successfully conducted a flight test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system, intercepting a medium-range ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean with a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IA guided missile. The event took place NW of Hawaii. Time shown is for launch of the target, the complete test probably took less than 15 minutes. It was monitored from orbit by the twin STSS Demonstrator satellites (2009-052A and 2009-052B). STSS Demonstrator notes:


Aegis Ballistic Missile Test - Monitored by STSS Demonstrator
Pacific Missile Range - near Kauai, Hawaii
2013 May 16, 03:25
USS LAKE ERIE (CG 70) successfully conducted a flight test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system, intercepting a medium-range ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean with a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IB guided missile. The event took place NW of Hawaii. Time shown is for launch of the target, the complete test probably took less than 15 minutes. It was monitored from orbit by the twin STSS Demonstrator satellites (2009-052A and 2009-052B). STSS Demonstrator notes on previous tests:


Minuteman III Test Launch
Vandenberg AFB
2013 May 22, 13:27
Targets were in the Ronald Reagan Missile Test Area, Marshall Islands. Missile carried six dummy warheads. Most of the event, particularly midcourse and re-entry was within view of the STSS Demonstrator satellites USA 208 (2009-052A/35937) and USA 209 (2009-052B/35938): http://www.zarya.info/Tracking/STSSDemo/STSSDemoLaunch.php Originally planned for April 10 but, April 6, US announced postponement because of diplomatic tensions concerning the Korean Peninsula. Postponed 24 hrs from May 21 due to a "range safety instrumentation issue" identified during the launch window. Launch window was announced as 10:01 to 16:01 UTC. There was a second reserve day on May 23.


Missile Interception Test - Failure
Vandenberg AFB
2013 Jul 5, 18:45
Test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element of US Ballistic Missile Defense System. Objective was Intercept of a long-range ballistic missile launched from the Ronald Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll but it failed. The interceptor missile was launched from Vandenberg AFB and was an operational test of the first-generation Capability Enhancement Enhancement 1 Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle. The time is an estimate based on potential involvement by the STSS Demonstrator satellites monitoring the event. It indicates when they were overhead the test zone. There is a small possibility it occurred two hours earlier on the satellites' previous pass near the area. Calendar of STSS test events: http://www.zarya.info/Tracking/STSSDemo/STSSDemoCalendar.php




Note: page subject to update at any time as events occur or are added.
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