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Missile Detection Satellites


2016 – U.S. Missile Defense – Snapshot

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), headquartered in the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, conducts acquisition and testing of systems to defend the United States against incoming missiles. This mission was formally enshrined in the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) announced in 1983.

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2016 – U.S. Missile Detection – Snapshot

Since 1970, the United States has relied on space-based infrared sensors for detecting energy emitted from ballistic missile launches from other countries around the world. During 2016, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) continued to operate the primary means of detecting launches of missiles and space launch vehicles, using infrared satellites and sensors orbiting the Earth.

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2005 – U.S. Missile Defense

Transportation-based activities also can be considered to include U.S. efforts at ballistic missile defense. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) was established in 1999 “to deploy as soon as is technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack.” The MDA uses an integrated system of sensors and weapons to detect and destroy incoming ballistic missiles in their boost, midcourse, or terminal phase.

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2013 – U.S. Missile Detection

Satellites are essential tools for detecting hostile missiles being fired at allied forces. Systems such as the USAF Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS)-High program are designed to monitor and give maximum warning of ballistic missile launches originating anywhere on the planet. The system consists of two HEO satellites, three Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) spacecraft in LEO, as well as two GEO satellites, the most recent one being launched in March 2013.

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2012 – U.S. Missile Detection

Some satellites are optimized to serve unique military functions. Missile launch detection satellites, such as the USAF Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS)-High program, are designed to monitor and give maximum warning of ballistic missile launches originating anywhere on the planet. As of October 2012, there were two SBIRS-High payloads hosted on spacecraft in highly elliptical orbits. A third payload is planned for delivery to the USAF in 2013.

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Missile Detection Satellites

Only two countries are known to operate global missile detection and warning satellites—Russia and the United States. During 2016, only one country, the United States, has been able to conduct global monitoring with missile detection and warning satellites 24 hours a day. Russia appears to…

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2014 – U.S. Missile Defense

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA’s) two Space Tracking and Surveillance System-Demonstrator (STSS-D) satellites remained fairly quiet in 2014. Launched in September 2009, the satellites continue to circle the Earth at an altitude of 1,350 kilometers (840 miles). The satellites can track a missile in “stereo” (when both satellites’ infrared payloads track and provide data on the same object) from the time of a missile’s launch until it re-enters the atmosphere.

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