Northrop Grumman-built missile tracking satellites reach 10th year on orbit

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Artist conception of STSS missile tracking satellites helping to destroy incoming long-range warheads as part of a test in the Pacific test range. (Northrop Grumman image)

The Space Tracking and Surveillance System satellites built by Northrop Grumman for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency have far surpassed their four-year on-orbit design life, completing a 10th year of space operations.

Still in operation today, the STSS missile tracking satellites continue to provide critical support for missile and national defense.  

Two STSS missile tracking satellites were launched into low Earth orbit in 2009 and proved the operational value of space-based precision mid-course ballistic missile tracking. STSS has tracked ballistic missiles through all phases of flight and in 2013 demonstrated the “launch on remote” capability, which significantly expands the defended area of a U.S. Navy Aegis cruiser.

“STSS missile tracking satellites proved that space-based assets could significantly improve our nation’s missile defense capability and paved the way for future systems,” said Bob Mehltretter, vice president, military and civil space, Northrop Grumman. “Being able to track missiles from low Earth orbit allows threats to be engaged earlier in the process using existing interceptors.”

“Northrop Grumman is leveraging all the experience we gained from our legacy OPIR [Overhead Persistent Infrared] systems – STSS, DSP [Defense Support Program], and SBIRS [Space Based Infrared System] – to develop our nation’s future OPIR programs,” said Mehltretter.