Tuesday, September 22, 2009

ULA Delta II to Launch Missle Tracking Payload

A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket is set to depart America's Space Coast on Wednesday with a new missile defense system tracking payload for the United States military.

Launch of the Delta II-7920 from launch complex 17B here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, is planned for September 23, sometime during a 58 minute launch window which begins at 8:00 am EDT.

The Delta II's payload will be two satellites -- SV1 & SV2 -- which are joined together to form the Space Tracking and Surveillance System – Demonstrators (STSS Demo). Using both infrared and visible light sensors, the STSS Demo payload will give the military the ability to detect and track ballistic missiles in all phases of flight which could threaten the United States and her partner countries.

Once lift-off occurs, the Delta II will fly parallel with the United States east coast as it head up toward the north Atlantic Ocean. About 47 minutes and 45 seconds after launch, the first of the two satellites, SV1, will separate from the second stage booster at an altitude of 730 nautical miles over the central Indian Ocean. Seven and one-half minutes later, the SV-2 satellite will separate over the southern Indian Ocean at an altitude of 731 miles.

The orbital inclination for both spacecraft will be at 58.0 degrees - a very high inclination orbit to cover most of the planet's surface.

Last week, the U.S. Air Force public relations told this reporter, "Once on orbit, MDA (missile defense agency) will assess the satellites’ ability to detect and track ballistic missiles and function as part of a multilayered missile defense architecture".

In a document (#PE 0603893C) recently made unclassified and obtained by SpaceLaunch News, the internal MDA paper produces a strong government argument for the need of this space based defense system:

"Space sensors like Space Tracking Surveillance Systems (STSS) provide the most cost effective and operationally suitable means of providing global persistent surveillance and engagement, directly addressing the number one missile defense priority need for STRATCOM and other Combatant Commanders. The STSS Demonstrator satellites will demonstrate the ability of a space sensor to provide high precision, real time tracking of missiles and midcourse objects, thus enabling simultaneous regional, theater, and strategic missile defense. Data from STSS testing planned for FY10 will validate the ability to track cold, midcourse objects and close the fire control loop with BMDS interceptors from space. Additionally, STSS provides a new infrared sensor phenomenology for the BMDS, which, when combined with radars, provides robustness against current and advanced counter measures."

According to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, the "STSS Demonstrators Program is a mid course tracking technology demonstrator and is part of an evolving ballistic missile defense system. STSS is capable of tracking objects after boost phase and provides trajectory information to other sensors and interceptors".

Later this year and through 2010, the STSS multi-satellites will be used to test its accuracy with several sea, air and land based test ICBM launches.

Built by the Northrop Grumman Corporation, the $830 million dollar STSS-Demo payload is being launched with the support of NASA and the U.S. Air Force 30th Space Wing.

SpaceLaunchNews.com will carry the launch LIVE beginning at 6:00 am tomorrow. We will also have current updates via our Twitter feed beginning early in the day. Subscribe via Twitter for our updates to your mobile phone, Blackberry or iPhone today.

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