Air Force to speed development of new satellite missile warning system for a contested environment

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – U.S. space warfare experts are speeding-up efforts to build and deploy a next-generation satellite ballistic missile warning system that will operate reliably in a contested environment amid enemy attempts to jam, disable, or destroy the orbiting spacecraft.

Nov 15th, 2017
Air Force to speed development of new satellite missile warning system for a contested environment
Air Force to speed development of new satellite missile warning system for a contested environment
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – U.S. space warfare experts are speeding-up efforts to build and deploy a next-generation satellite ballistic missile warning system that will operate reliably in a contested environment amid enemy attempts to jam, disable, or destroy the orbiting spacecraft.

Officials of the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in El Segundo, Calif., issued a request for information Tuesday for the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Follow-on program to develop new satellites and ground-control to augment or replace today's existing SBIRS constellation.

Air Force experts are trying to speed development of a next-generation SBIRS satellite system for a contested environment -- which means the system should be able to survive enemy attempts to blind orbiting satellites with lasers, jam their radio signals, disable the satellites with nuclear explosions in space, or shoot the satellites down.

This next-gen SBIRS system will be build to the Air Force's Space Warfighting Construct, which centers on warfighting ability to maintain space superiority in a contested, degraded, and operationally limited environment.

The Space and Missile Systems Center has an "unusual and compelling urgency" to constitute a next-generation resilient SBIRS system of five satellites in geosynchronous orbit and two in polar orbit to counter emerging threats while operating in a contested environment, Air Force officials say.

Related: Lockheed Martin to beef-up cyber security for SBIRS electro-optical satellite surveillance system

This future five-satellite SBIRS system -- called SBIRS Follow-on Block 0 -- most likely will come from the Lockheed Martin Corp. Space Systems segment in Sunnyvale, Calif., so that Air Force experts build them quickly enough to be in operation by 2029, with initial launch capability in 2025. Lockheed Martin is systems integrator for the existing SBIRS constellation.

The Air Force plans a full and open industry competition for SBIRS Follow-on Block 1, which will consist of at least two satellites operating in geosynchronous orbit. Block 1 will start in mid 2020, with initial launch capability in 2030.

Block 1 may call for as many as five additional SBIRS Follow-On geosynchronous satellites and two additional polar-orbiting satellites that will increase strategic survivability in a contested environment.

The next-generation SBIRS satellites will perform boost phase missile warning for all classes of enemy ballistic missiles -- same as the existing SBIRS satellites -- except the system will have enhanced capabilities to resist enemy attempts to disrupt, disable, or destroy its satellites and ground control.

Related: Northrop Grumman to provide inertial reference system for fifth SBIRS reconnaissance satellite

The Air Force also wants to hear from satellite payload integrators who interested in participating in the SBIRS Follow-On program. The Air Force is considering requiring the prime contractor to carry at least two viable mission payload vendors at least through critical design review (CDR) for risk mitigation.

The Air Force wants a lightweight resilient primary mission payload that weighs less than 600 pounds. The new satellites will launch on the medium Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), and Air Force experts want to understand how the new spacecraft could accommodate auxiliary payloads and capabilities.

The Air Force will conduct face-to-face briefings from companies able to act as prime contractor, as well as companies able to provide mission payloads, from 8 to 12 Jan. 2018 at SAIC, located at 185 South Douglas St. in El Segundo, Calif.

Email questions or concerns to the Air Force's Kirsten Perry at kirsten.perry@us.af.mil. More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/USAF/AFSC/SMCSMSC/SBIRSFORFI3/listing.html.

Ready to make a purchase? Search the Military & Aerospace Electronics Buyer's Guide for companies, new products, press releases, and videos

More in Computers