Plans for four advanced missile-tracking satellites passed a critical milestone this week as Melbourne-based L3Harris Technologies completed the final design review for the Space Development Agency’s missile-tracking program. The company will continue with development and integration of the four satellites under a $193 million firm, fixed-price contract.
The announcement comes on the heels of news that China has developed hypersonic missile technology that has the US military concerned. In October, the Financial Times reported a Chinese test of a new hypersonic glide vehicle launched from a rocket in low-Earth orbit that, military analysts say, could be capable of evading current generation US missile defense systems. The launch took US national security officials by surprise.
“They launched a long-range missile,” General John Hyten, the outgoing vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told CBS News. “It went around the world, dropped off a hypersonic glide vehicle that glided all the way back to China, that impacted a target in China.”
When asked if the missile hit the target, Hyten said, “Close enough.”
But the US defense industry isn’t standing idle. L3Harris has been developing and refining its missile-tracking technology for years. The company completed its critical design review in November, and says they will proceed through the build, integration, test, and acceptance phases on the way to an expected launch in early 2023.
“Rapid deployment programs, such as this one, demonstrate early missile warning and tracking missions can be efficient, affordable, and developed at a pace that keeps up with emerging threats,” said Ed Zoiss, President, L3Harris Space & Airborne Systems. “L3Harris purchased subsystems and other material and began building while completing the design to demonstrate speed to deployment.”
L3Harris says the company is also developing a prototype for the Missile Defense Agency’s Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor, an announcement that is obviously targeted toward the emerging threat in China.