US Blasts HBTSS To Counter Russian Plans Of ‘Blowing Up’ The Space & Neutralizing Its Military Edge

Worried that Russia was developing “troubling anti-satellite weapons,” the US has launched six satellites that can warn, track, and defend against enemy missiles.

Amid the burgeoning threat from hypersonic weapons fielded by its adversaries, the Pentagon announced that the Space Development Agency (SDA) and the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) successfully launched six satellites, including MDA’s Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS), on February 14.

A statement published by the US Department of Defense (DoD) noted, “The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Space Development Agency (SDA) confirmed the successful launch of six satellites to low-Earth orbit at 5:30 p.m. ET from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.”

“This launch represents a pivotal time for MDA as we enter a new phase of missile warning, tracking, and defense,” said Lt. Gen. Heath Collins, Director of MDA, ahead of the launch. “These HBTSS satellites are an essential step forward in our efforts to stay ahead of our adversaries.”

The satellites — two are for MDA’s Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS), and the remaining four SDA Tranche 0 (T0) Tracking Layer satellites of its Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA) — are undergoing initial testing and checkout after safe delivery to orbit.

There will be two years of on-orbit testing after the two prototype systems are launched. The MDA and SDA engineers will conduct extensive tests and checkout processes over the next two weeks to confirm that the satellites are functioning and corresponding with other systems as planned.

The HBTSS sensors will identify and monitor conventional ballistic missiles, maneuvering hypersonic weapons, and other advanced threats. They have been designed and manufactured by L3Harris Technologies and Northrup Grumman.

The satellites are a component of a larger strategy to improve US missile monitoring and warning capabilities in response to growing threats from Chinese and Russian missiles. By placing the devices in lower orbits, which are roughly 22,000 miles above Earth, they can function with simpler sensors than those needed for earlier geosynchronous orbit (GEO) missions.

To combat the threat posed by Hypersonic Glide Vehicles (HGV), the US is also working on developing the Glide Phase Interceptors (GPI). HGVs, like the one used by China’s DF-17, are difficult to track as they exit and enter the atmosphere, follow an unpredictable trajectory, and move at five times the speed of sound.

The Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI), capable of intercepting a hypersonic missile in its glide phase of flight, is expected to be delivered in the early 2030s. MDA is required to deliver and deploy “not fewer than 12” Glide Phase Interceptors (GPIs) by the deadline they have suggested, besides demonstrating through tests that the interceptor can indeed counter and defeat hypersonic weapons.

HBTSS, as a space sensor prototype demonstration, will provide the fire control quality data needed. Ultimately, this information is essential for missile defense weapons to engage, especially hypersonic glide-phase missiles. The HBTSS’s “birth-to-death” tracking capability will enable custody-keeping of missile threats from launch to intercept.

Derek Turner, Director of SDA, said, “Launching our Tracking satellites into the same orbit with the MDA HBTSS satellites is a win for both agencies.”

“We’ll be able to look at test targets from the same orbit at the same time so that we can see how the two sensors work together. In Tranche 1, SDA will fly both sensor types as an operational system – medium-field-of-view demonstrating fire control, based on HBTSS design, and wide-field-of-view doing warning and tracking, based on T0 tracking design.”

Operationally, SDA’s PWSA will be informed by the missile defense capability developed through MDA’s HBTSS demonstration program, which will identify advanced threats, such as hypersonic and ballistic threats, ahead of terrestrial radars. The capability will also provide tracking data for hypersonic threats that can be shared amongst linked missile defense weapons.

Russia’s New ASAT Weapon Rattles US

The US launches apart, and interesting developments from Russia are reportedly happening in space. The US, for one, has warned that Russia has been developing what it describes as “troubling anti-satellite weapons.”

John Kirby, the spokesperson for the White House, made the remarks the day after a senior House Republican delivered cryptic threats on a “serious national security threat” without mentioning the alleged ASAT weapon.

Northrop Grumman Completes Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor Critical Design Review- Northrop Grumman

Preliminary reports suggested that the weapon was space-based and equipped with a nuclear bomb to target satellites. However, Kirby stopped short of confirming that information in his remarks and did not provide additional and specific information on the nature of this alleged troublesome weapon. Russia, for one, has had anti-satellite capabilities for a long time now and has conducted an ASAT.

In November 2022, Moscow conducted an anti-satellite (ASAT) test early on, which ended up generating hundreds of thousands of pieces of space debris and threatened the safety of astronauts on the International Space Station, who had to duck and hide to survive.

Recently appointed President Joe Biden’s senior advisor, Kirby assured reporters that the American people were not in immediate danger. According to him, President Biden was informed of the intelligence, and his administration was treating the weapon’s development “very seriously.” The President had already issued an order for “direct diplomatic engagement with Russia” in response to the danger, he continued. ”We’re not talking about a weapon that can be used to attack human beings or cause physical destruction here on Earth,” he said.

A flurry of rumors erupted across the US after House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Turner delivered a cryptic warning about a serious national security threat. Diffusing tensions, Kirby stated that the US was taking the threat “very seriously” even though there was no proof the weapon had been used.

Russian and Chinese military capabilities in space have been progressively increasing as they try to overtake the US, American officials and aerospace experts have warned for years.

As for these latest statements made by US officials, Moscow charged that the US was using its allegations of new Russian weaponry as a smoke screen to get Congress to approve more aid for Ukraine “by hook or by crook.”