August 4, 2021

$130 Million is approved by Congress for the hypersonic missile warning satellites

2 min read

In order to finance the latest satellite constellation capable of detecting hypersonic missiles, Congress expanded the Missile Defense Agency’s expenditure by $130 million. The low Earth orbit satellite can have hypersonic missile tracking data, which is dimmer than conventional ballistics and therefore can maneuver in flight, putting a massive void in the infrastructure of the United States missile warning. Throughout the year, senators, who passed the December 21 spending bill by a vote large enough to override a veto proposed by President Donald Trump, expressed disappointment that the department’s budget would not contain any money to improve the Hypersonic or Ballistic Space Tracking Sensor (HBTSS).

While the MDA leadership urged Congress to finance the constellation, requesting $108 million for the HBTSS in its unfunded list of priorities, lawmakers shared their frustration about why the department’s final funding proposal did not contain such a high priority initiative. In specific, current procurement projects have been described as the top priority in the structure of MDA as recently as a year ago, including the production of a space monitor for hypersonic hazard detection and ballistic missile monitoring… Legislators wrote in remarks on the proposal that they had been excluded from the MDA’s expenditure or undergone major funding declines. “The discrepancies are concerning.”

A $10 million shift from Space Development Agency is included in the $130 million funding addition for the mission. The law also seems to overcome some conflict between the Pentagon as well as Congress over which department can lead the creation of HBTSS, a discrepancy that has been underway since the year 2019. The root of the misunderstanding comes from the location of HBTSS inside the missile warning sector. Although MDA primarily owns the system, it is only one aspect of the National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA) that is developed into a hypersonic detection and tracking solution, the constellation that SDA is creating that will potentially consist of hundreds of low-Earth orbit satellites.

The constellation will have its broad-field-of-view tracking layer satellites, which will immediately track hypersonic risks. When threats come into and exit the vision of specific satellites, control of the threat can move from satellite to satellite through the on-orbit mesh network. Custody would eventually land with the HBTSS, a more sensitive moderate-field-of-view sensor that can produce the targeting information required to kill the threat. Due to the interaction of HBTSS with SDA’s design, the White House claimed in 2019 it was too soon to place the initiative in charge of a specific entity.

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