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The Department of Defense will stop buying geosynchronous missile warning satellites

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In Science and Space: The Pentagon plans to end the purchase of very large infrared satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) that provide early warning of ballistic missile launches anywhere in the world. bridge. Officials say over the next few years, the DoD will begin to transition to an ever-increasing architecture of small satellites in lower orbit.

The agency, known as SDA, is developing a constellation of rocket tracking satellites using a large number of small satellites in low orbit. Next month, SDA will become part of the Space Force.

“The way the Space Force is heading is that we won’t be dependent on these [GEO satellites] in the future,” Space Development Agency Director Derek Tournear told reporters at the conference. Aviation, Space & Cyberspace.

Tournear’s comments come a day after Space Force procurement director Frank Calvelli said the DoD could no longer afford the billions of dollars worth of satellites that take an average of seven years to develop in the future. as China is preparing to build new constellations at a rapid pace. He was particularly critical of the current, next-generation Continuous Infrared (OPIR) satellite that the Space Force is purchasing from Lockheed Martin at a cost of $7.8 billion for three GEO satellites and ground systems.

“We will eliminate sophisticated and expensive GEOs and large satellites,” said Tournear. “We will be enhancing this layer in LEO and MEO to provide missile warning and tracking capabilities.”

Existing missile warning satellites will certainly remain operational for decades. There are six Space Infrared System (SBIRS) satellites in the GEO today, and their highly elliptical orbit is expected to last for another two decades. And the next generation GEOs will be in orbit long after 2050. The architecture will change, but the missile warning satellites cannot be disabled “because this is a fail-safe mission that the United States relies on the Space Force for,” Mr. Tournear said. “So we wanted that overlap… We wanted to make sure we had a strong grip and make sure the LEO layer was working before we let go.”

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GEO constellations will be part of the architecture for the lifetime of these satellites, he said. The US Space Force’s head of space operations, General John “Jay” Raymond, told reporters on Wednesday that the architecture of the missile warning satellite was being overhauled, but insisted determine that existing systems will remain operational for as long as needed. “The challenge we face in space is that we harness all of these possibilities for the world,” he said. “And you can’t tell the world I’m going to turn off GPS or turn off missile alerts and we’ll get back to you in about 10 years with new stuff.”

“We are looking to diversify our architecture,” he said. “It will make us more resilient.. But you have to have a bridge,” Raymond said. “And those are the discussions we have about how you balance risk as we move from old to new.” Notably, when the US Air Force announced in 2018 that it would stop buying SBIRS satellites and acquire the next-generation OPIR, officials suggested that the new satellite would be less expensive and more resilient. higher than SBIRS. In 2017, SBIRS satellites were criticized by General John Hyten for being “a delicious target” for enemy anti-satellite weapons. This resulted in the Air Force accelerating the purchase of next-generation OPIR aircraft.

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