Military

US Defense Department uses CubeSats to test anti-hypersonic tech

US Defense Department uses Cub...
Artist's rednering of a hypersonic missile defense system
Artist's rednering of a hypersonic missile defense system
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Artist's rednering of a hypersonic missile defense system
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Artist's rednering of a hypersonic missile defense system
A CubeSat Networked Communications Experiment Block 1 satellite is shown with solar arrays
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A CubeSat Networked Communications Experiment Block 1 satellite is shown with solar arrays
Each CubeSat is abot the size of aloaf of bread
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Each CubeSat is abot the size of aloaf of bread
Missile Defense Agency’s Nanosat Testbed Initiative and VOX Space systems engineers insert a CubeSat Networked Communications Experiment Block 1 satellite into a dispenser
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Missile Defense Agency’s Nanosat Testbed Initiative and VOX Space systems engineers insert a CubeSat Networked Communications Experiment Block 1 satellite into a dispenser
The loaded CubeSat dispenser at VOX Space integration facility
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The loaded CubeSat dispenser at VOX Space integration facility
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The US Department of Defense's Missile Defense Agency is using a pair of CubeSats to develop a system to track hostile ballistic and hypersonic missiles from launch to impact. Part of the Nanosat Testbed Initiative, the CubeSat Networked Communications Experiment (CNCE) Block 1 was launched from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California on June 30 for a three-month technology demonstration mission.

As hypersonic missiles rapidly move toward becoming practical weapons, the problem of how to counter them is also on the agenda. One American response being developed by the MDA is the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS), which is being developed in competition between Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Leidos, and L3Harris.

When deployed aboard satellites in low-earth orbit, the HBTSS aims to globally track hypersonic missiles in all phases of their flight as well as feeding data to command centers and interceptors to identify and destroy them. To accomplish this, the constellation of satellites will need to be able to communicate with one another as well as directly with the interceptor missiles.

A CubeSat Networked Communications Experiment Block 1 satellite is shown with solar arrays
A CubeSat Networked Communications Experiment Block 1 satellite is shown with solar arrays

Launched into space by VOX Space LLC using an aircraft-mounted rocket, the two satellites, each about the size of a loaf of bread, will demonstrate how to use networked radio communications between satellites in orbit to support the future missile defense system using HBTSS. By using CubeSats built with off-the-shelf parts, the Missile Defense Agency can quickly and cheaply roll out modifications and test them in space in a series of missions as the technology matures. Each satellite only costs about US$1.3 million.

"These satellites will test key technologies that mitigate risk for systems, such as the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor," says Walt Chai, MDA director for space sensors. "The CNCE Block 1 mission will demonstrate the viability of advanced communications technologies using reduced size, weight, and power in support of missile defense communications architectures."

Source: Department of Defense

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2 comments
2 comments
jerryd
Let the PORK fly!! What a scam. We have always had hypersonic missiles, we just called missiles. The same detection equipment, defenses, etc work the same as the same threat.
A HS can't fly below 25 miles or so it stays in tracking range with present equipment. Infrared especially good as they are hotter than hell and easily taken out by a Sidewinder AA missile tracker on a suitable rocket, say a FLAGG? anti satelite missile .
This is Russian hype US defense contractors are ginning up to rip off taxpayers. Nothing more.
Karmudjun
Now that we have missiles that do travel faster than the speed of sound (ie., hypersonic), we have reduced the reaction time for the doomsday clock. If anyone remembers the various theories of deterrence through mutual destruction - I don't know why science keeps getting attacked by ultra "Not with my money" libertrumpians - and the misinformation in the attack!!!

But David - you did a nice write up and never mentioned the reliance on communications & computer technology - I know, it must have been a given - but cube sats are a welcome opportunity for hackers to prove their expertise. Like hunters, the thrill is partially in the planning and training required to sneak or hide in a blind and get that "perfect shot". The trophy is for memories sake. If Russian or Chinese hackers can stealthily reprogram or hack the cube-sats - where will that leave us? With breakthrough technology that doesn't serve its purpose. Any word on what they are doing to avoid intrusion into the system? At least these developments are not fake news. It keeps our research plugging ahead, and breakthroughs of value in the publications. Thanks David