Orbital Focus - International Spaceflight Facts and Figures
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STSS Demonstrator Mission

Tyneside, UK
2022 Aug 15
Monday, Day 227

Curated by:

Sensor Tests:


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

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