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U.S. Air Force Pushes Back Experimental Missile Warning Satellite


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Air Force expects to launch an experimental missile-warning satellite in 2018 or 2019, about two years later than the timeline service officials used last January.

The Air Force said in a 2015 sole-source notice that it had planned to tap commercial satellite manufacturer Space Systems Loral of Palo Alto, California, to carry a wide-field-of-view sensor to near-geosynchronous orbit as a secondary payload in late 2016 or the first half of 2017. But shortly after it was published, the service canceled the notice.

In a new request for information, posted Jan. 6 to the Federal Business Opportunities website, the Air Force said it expects to fly the satellite in 2018 or in the first six months of 2019.

The Air Force did not explain the reason for the delay in the request. Representatives from the service’s Space and Missile Systems Center did not immediately respond to questions from SpaceNews.

In the Jan. 6 notice, the service said it was looking for commercial satellite companies to submit information on their capability to launch the missile warning satellite. The request suggests the Air Force is leaning toward a new contract to put the satellite on orbit, industry sources said.

The wide field of view testbed features a sensor that is part of an Air Force effort to explore alternative technologies and approaches to missile warning.

L-3 Communications won a $13 million contract in June 2014 to develop a 6-degree-field-of-view sensor to focus on tactical missile threats. Millennium Space Systems of Torrance, California, is building the space vehicle.

Air Force officials have said experiments with a wide-field-of-view sensor are critical for two reasons. First, they help test and verify architectures for a follow-on program to the service’s missile warning satellites, known as the Space Based Infrared System. Second, they help the Air Force develop the algorithms necessary to process the flood of data that would come from improved sensor focal-plane technology.

Source: Space News

U.S. Air Force Pushes Back Experimental Missile Warning Satellite

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