Missile Defense Agency of the Defense Department has chosen L3Harris, and Northrop Grumman to each develop a model sensor satellite able to track hypersonic as well as ballistic missiles. Northrop Grumman was awarded a $155 million contract on January 22 by the Missile Defense Agency. L3Harris won a contract worth $121 million on January 14. Designs by Northrop Grumman as well as L3Harris were chosen from a pool of four competitors. In October 2019, the Missile Defense Agency got to award the contracts worth $20 million each to Raytheon, Leidos, L3Harris and Northrop Grumman to develop space sensors for the system named as the Hypersonic and Ballistic Space Tracking Sensor (HBTSS).

By July 2023, the two winners must produce prototype satellites. To evaluate the sensors’ capacities to monitor ballistic missiles (dim upper-stage) and hypersonic, satellites will be dispatched in the low-Earth orbit. The medium field of view detectors can create the requisite “fire control” details to aim an interceptor system to take down the opponent missile. The HBTSS satellites are going to be part of the network for missile alert to be procured by the Space Development Agency that also contains wide-field-of-view missile monitoring satellites. L3Harris, as well as SpaceX, are both developing four satellites which are meant for the Tracking Layer of the Space Development Agency.

Hundreds of satellites are planned to be acquired by both the Space Development Agency as well as the Missile Defense Agency to have global coverage potentially. The Tracking Layer and HBTSS systems are elements of what the United States is all about. The Space Force considers a “overhead continuous infrared” higher and lower orbit satellite architecture which provides early detection of missile launches, detects the position of an approaching missile, and sends the location information to an interceptor missile which will attempt to shoot it down.

Their satellites will operate in coordination with HBTSS satellites to detect hypersonic threats, as per Space Development Agency officials. Initial identification and tracking of the missiles will be provided by the WFOV satellites, shifting custody from the satellite to satellite as dangers cross the globe. The WFOV satellites would then shift possession to  medium field of view of the HBTSS, satellites that will support their more precise sensors with targeting approaches. The launch of the WFOV satellites is expected as soon as 2022 September. Work will be finished in July 2023 on the HBTSS prototype deal.

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By Adam