A Satellite Constellation to Track Hypersonic Missiles

Artist's view of an Epoch 1 satellite © Millenium Space Systems

The Pentagon has approved the production of a constellation of six satellites dedicated to the detection and tracking of ballistic and hypersonic missiles. These satellites will be placed in medium-earth orbit, marking a significant development.

A new space infrastructure geared towards warfare is beginning to take shape. On November 27th, the US Space Force’s Space Systems Command greenlit the production of six satellites designed for missile detection and tracking. Proposed by the American company Millennium Space Systems (a subsidiary of Boeing), the constellation has successfully passed its critical design review, paving the way for the commencement of production for the initial six satellites.

Monitoring From All Orbits

The first segment of the Epoch constellation will comprise a total of nine satellites. In total, Epoch will consist of 27 satellites in medium Earth orbit, defined as beyond 1,200 kilometers in altitude. Historically, the US Space Force has deployed missile launch detection satellites in geostationary orbit. These SBIRS satellites employ infrared sensors to detect intercontinental missile launches. However, the resolution of these satellites has become inadequate, and geostationary satellites present vulnerable targets for potential attacks from enemy satellites, a capability possessed by both China and Russia.

The multiplication of satellites enhances spatial resolution, providing a closer view, improves temporal resolution for better revisit times, and reduces communication delays with the ground, all while bolstering security by complicating the task for adversaries attempting to attack 27 satellites. Simultaneously, the Pentagon is gearing up to deploy its PSWA mega-constellation for low-earth orbit communication, with a segment dedicated to monitoring missile launches, including hypersonic missiles.

Millenium has developed digital prototypes of satellites, testing sensor performance in various scenarios, including engagements with enemy missiles. This encompasses tracking hypersonic missiles, despite their exceptionally high velocities.