The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) today awarded L3 Harris Technologies a contract to build a prototype satellite capable of tracking hypersonic weapons.
Valued $121 million, the contract covers building an on-orbit prototype demonstration for the agency’s Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS). U.S. lawmakers in December approved $130 million to fund the project.
HBTSS will be placed close to the earth’s surface to make detection of threats easier. But since they offer limited field of view than sensors in geosynchronous orbit, MDA wants a proliferated constellation in low Earth orbit made up of hundreds of satellites capable of detecting and tracking hypersonic weapons. The information will be fed to fire control systems that can eliminate the threat.
The HBTSS is meant to counter growing threat of hypersonic weapons such as Russia’s Avangard and China’s Starry Sky-2 hypersonic glide vehicles.
First tranche is expected on orbit in 2022.
The contract awarded to L3 Harris today will culminate with launch and early orbit testing.