REDONDO BEACH, Calif. --- The 23rd and final Defense Support Program (DSP) satellite, built by Northrop Grumman Corporation for the U.S. Air Force, is scheduled for launch on Nov. 10 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Launch Complex 37. The launch window is expected to open at 8:39 EST.
DSP Flight 23 will complete a constellation that has served as the nation's “eyes in the sky'' for 37 years, providing early warning of ballistic missile launches aimed at the United States and its allies. DSP has served the nation continuously since becoming operational, monitoring the globe and detecting, characterizing and reporting on ballistic missile launches in peacetime and in conflict.
The first DSP became operational during the Cold War, initially monitoring Soviet and Chinese intercontinental ballistic missiles and Soviet short-range, submarine-launched ballistic missiles from a geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles above the Earth. Following the end of the Cold War, the system started monitoring tactical ballistic missiles, and, in recent years, has even been used to detect and study large fires and volcanic eruptions.
“DSP has established an excellent performance record, reliably delivering data to the warfighter with no interruption in service, despite different threats and changing requirements,'' said Alexis Livanos, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman's Space Technology sector. “This system is the result of a close and mutually supportive partnership between the government and industry. Our people have refined processes, developed capabilities and shared best practices that have contributed to DSP's long-term success.''
Northrop Grumman builds and integrates the spacecraft and infrared sensor for the Air Force Space and Missile Center. Its teammates include the Aerospace Corporation, and Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories.
Northrop Grumman's disciplined approach to evolving the DSP system through four major upgrades has allowed the satellites to exceed their initially required design lives by 150 percent. DSP's longevity has provided an extra 163 satellite-years on-orbit to date, which is the equivalent of delivering 30 to 50 additional satellites (without the cost of the launches).
The sensor has also grown in capability. System life was extended by adding a thermal control system to keep the focal plane array cool and by redesigning hardware to counter the effects of radiation and surface contamination. Improving onboard data processing and adding a data control unit has eliminated unexpected data losses, allowed for independent sensor tuning, and maximized the availability of lower intensity data.
The system has also benefited through an evolutionary jump in ground processing capability. Ground processing was re-hosted to a significantly more powerful operating system. This allows the DSP system to process all available data, improve background control and line of sight determination algorithms, improve data fusion, process multiple assets, and evolve the mission capabilities into the tactical arena.
Another factor contributing to DSP's longevity and reliability is Northrop Grumman's launch integration skills, which have been proven on five different launch vehicles to date. The upcoming launch, on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV-Heavy, will be the sixth launch vehicle to give DSP a lift but the first Delta IV-Heavy to boost the satellite into orbit.
In addition to building and integrating 23 DSP spacecraft with missile-detecting infrared sensors, Northrop Grumman provides day-to-day technical assistance for DSP at Schriever and Buckley Air Force bases; conducts satellite performance analysis, anomaly resolution and early on-orbit testing at its Telemetry and Orbital Test Station and Satellite Payload Orbital Test Station; and has built software systems that help to process, display and distribute DSP satellite data to national command authorities.
Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $30 billion global defense and technology company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.