Northrop Grumman and IHI partner to develop patrol satellites
Space may be the final frontier, but it still needs someone to keep the peace. To help achieve this, Northrop Grumman and Tokyo-based IHI Corporation are teaming up to develop small, highly maneuverable Space Domain Awareness (SDA) satellites for Japan to protect commercial satellites from potentially hostile spacecraft.
According to the United Nations, there are over 8,000 satellites orbiting the Earth and there may be as many as 100,000 in 10 years. In 60 years, this constellation has gone from an engineering curiosity to a gigantic system that modern civilization is completely dependent upon.
Unfortunately, these satellites are becoming increasingly vulnerable as they become increasingly attractive targets. In recent years there have been more and more incidents of suspicious spacecraft that have been approaching other satellites. Perhaps the intent is hostile or it may be for intelligence gathering, but it still makes the operators nervous.
Since December 2022, Japan’s National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy has mandated increasing SDA to protect the country's satellites. Not so long ago, this would have only been an empty statement, but the development of increasingly sophisticated satellite maneuvering systems and spacecraft that can rendezvous with and service satellites has made this a practical goal.
The new Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Northrop and IHI at the DSEI Japan defense exhibition at the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba City. The agreement states that the SDA satellites will be based on current Northrop Grumman satellite buses and may use IHI space propulsion systems.
"Recently, we have seen a rise in military surveillance efforts from other countries, which is becoming a national security threat," said Fumiharu Namiki, Vice President, Aero Engine, Space & Defense Business Area, IHI Corporation. "We need to characterize suspicious satellites to understand the threat. Northrop Grumman’s demonstrated experience in this field and the long-standing cooperation between our companies makes them our best partner to pursue solutions to these problems. We will cooperate together to contribute to the stable use of space."
Source: IHI Corporation
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