Written by Immacolata Ciotta
The Pentagon’s Space Development Agency (SDA) has approved a new initiative to develop satellites to track hypersonic missiles. Specifically, the agency has allocated $1.3 billion to L3Harris and Northrop Grumman to supply satellite prototypes.
The two companies, winners of a Tranche 1 tracking layer tender out of seven proposals received, will respectively produce 14 prototype satellites that will become part of the US defence space architecture. Ultimately, according to the agreements, the first launch is scheduled for April 2025.
The raison d’être of this project is to adopt state-of-the-art instruments since the current missile tracking capabilities are still largely designed to raise the alarm after revealing a launch in the very early stages of flight. Derek Tournear, director of the SDA explained: ‘the satellites we will be launching and fielding are capable of providing full warning and tracking of missiles that could be launched against us anywhere in the world.’ The reasons behind the decision to adopt this new capability lie in renewed competition with China and Russia, which have developed hypersonic speed gliding vehicles.