Space Based Space Surveillance Makes Headway [SBSS]Aug 21, 2012 15:40 UTC by Defense Industry Daily staff
In January 2001, a commission headed by then US Defense Secretary-designate Donald Rumsfeld warned about a possible “space Pearl Harbor” in which a potential enemy would launch a surprise attack against US-based military space assets, disabling them. These assets include communications satellites and the GPS system, which is crucial for precision attack missiles and a host of military systems.
“The US is more dependent on space than any other nation. Yet the threat to the US and its allies in and from space does not command the attention it merits,” the commission warned.
One of the systems that grew out of the commission’s report was the Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) project, which is developing a constellation of satellites to provide the US military with space situational awareness using visible sensors. After a slow start, SBSS Block 10 reached a significant milestone in August 2012 with its Initial Operational Capability.
The SBSS system is intended to detect and track space objects, such as satellites, anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, and orbital debris, providing information to the US Department of Defense as well as NASA. The SBSS is a stepping stone toward a functional space-based space surveillance constellation.
The SBSS is a follow-on to the Mid-Course Space Experiment/ Space-Based Visible (MSX/SBV) sensor. The initial SBSS satellite is expected to improve the US government’s ability to detect deep space objects by 80% over the MSX/SBV system.
The MSX/SBV system was a late 1990s missile defense test satellite; by 2002 most of its sensors had failed. However, 1 small package called the SBV sensor was able to search and track satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO) using visible light. This sensor lowered the number of “lost” objects in GEO orbit by a factor of 2.
Building on the success of the MSX/SBV visible sensor, the SBSS Block 10 further develops the technology and replace the SBV sensor. Block 10 involves the development of 1 satellite as a pathfinder for a full-constellation of space-based sensors.
The SBSS Block 20 constellation is expected to include 4 satellites when fully developed and the SBSS constellation was originally expected to be operational in FY 2013.
However, delays have plagued the system. In late 2005, an independent review team found that the program’s baseline was not executable; that the assembly, integration, and test plan was risky; and that the requirements were overstated. The SBSS program was restructured in early 2006 due to cost growth and schedule delays. The restructuring increased funding and schedule margin; streamlined the assembly, integration, and test plan; and relaxed requirements. The launch of the initial satellite was delayed and costs increased by about $130 million over initial estimates.
Northrop Grumman, the prime contractor for the SBSS system, awarded a Boeing-led team that includes Ball Aerospace and Harris Technologies a contract to develop and deploy the Block 10 SBSS Pathfinder satellite and ground system. The program appears back on track, though the timing of funding for follow-on remains uncertain.
Contracts and Key Events
Aug 20/12: Air Force Space Command declares Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the Space Based Space Surveillance Block 10 satellite. IOC marks a certain level of program maturity within the Production and Deployment (P&D) phase of the acquisition lifecycle. This follows an IOT&E phase conducted in March-April 2011 that DOT&E found adequate [PDF].
According to the GAO’s FY2012 report on space acquisitions, the Air Force decided to wait before asking for follow-up funding given the size the funds required, but this might be in play for FY2013.
Feb 23/11: The SBSS satellite begins full operational duty within the Air Force’s 1st Space Operations Squadron in the 50th Operations Group, 50th Space Wing, Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. It is operated 24/7 by a a crew of 4 consisting of a mission commander, mission crew chief, payload systems operator and satellite systems operator.
Sept 25/10: The Air Force successfully launched the 1st SBSS satellite, Block 10, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, aboard an Orbital Sciences’ Minotaur IV rocket. Block 20 will provide more robust capability and will be composed of a constellation of 4 satellites.
Jan 15/10: Boeing in Seal Beach, CA received a $30.9 million contract exercising the option for CY2010 maintenance and operations services to provide the requirements for the development and delivery of the logistics infrastructure of the Space Based Space Surveillance Block 10 system. At this time, $7.8 million has been obligated. The SMC/SYSW in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8819-08-C-0006, P00014).
Oct 6/09: A planned launch of the Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) satellite aboard a Minotaur 4 rocket was delayed indefinitely due to technical concerns with the launch vehicle, the USAF said. The SBSS launch is slated to take place from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA.
Feb 5/09: Boeing announced that it successfully completed initial satellite testing and demonstrated end-to-end mission functionality of the ground and space systems of the integrated Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) system.
The SBSS team demonstrated end-to-end mission functionality starting with the generation of mission plans in the Satellite Operations Center at Schriever Air Force Base, CO, in response to simulated tasking. These plans were sent via the encrypted Air Force satellite control network to command the flight space vehicle in Boulder, CO, to take images using the payload optics. The Boeing-led team also demonstrated progress toward operational readiness by completing the second full mission exercise. The exercise employed a mission scenario using the SBSS ground segment and a space vehicle simulator.
April 21/08: The Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) System Block 10 team announced completion of the payload electronics, high-speed gimbal and testing of the space vehicle’s visible sensor, enabling the start of payload integration and test.
The SBSS gimbal and visible sensor enable responsive tasking as events in space warrant. The Boeing-provided onboard payload computer performs immediate detection of space objects and provides future capability for improved Block 10 performance.
Dec 11/07: Boeing announced that it had successfully completed a series of Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) system tests as part of the development of a new operational sensor for the U.S. Space Surveillance Network.
Tests of the SBSS system’s visible sensor, payload electronics and high speed gimbal further validate that the enhanced capability of SBSS will be twice as fast, substantially more sensitive and 10 times more accurate than the capabilities currently on orbit, resulting in improved detection of threats to America’s space assets.
May 9/07: Northrop Grumman Missions Systems in Carson, CA received a $97 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to the Space Based Space Surveillance contract. The modificaiton is being issued to increase the contract value to recognize a subcontract overrun. No additional work is being added to the contract by this modification. The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA manages the contract(FA8819-04-C-0002/P00055).
April 23/07: Northrop Grumman Mission Systems in Carson, CA received a $20.5 million cost-plus-award-fee and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to the Space Based Space Surveillance contract to transfer work from Northrop Grumman Mission Systems to Boeing as part of a program restructure. The work transferred includes external interface management, program protection support, on-orbit support and certification and accreditation. This modification also adds additional systems testing requirements to the contract. The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA manages the contract (FA8819-04-C-0002/P00052).
Oct 23/06: Northrop Grumman Mission Systems in Carson, CA received a $13 million cost-plus-award fee and cost-plus-fixed fee contract modification incorporating the re-planned program schedule for the Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) system due to budget reduction in FY 2003 and FY 2004. It also incorporates a program launch slip from June 2007 to December 2008 for SBSS. The award will be made to Northrop Grumman Mission Systems as a contractor modification to an existing contract. The Space Superiority Systems Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA manages the contract (FA8819-04-C-0002/P00039).
Dec 17/04: Northrop Grumman Space and Mission Systems Corp. in Redondo Beach, CA received a $223.2 million cost-plus award-fee contract modification to develop and deliver a Space Based Space Surveillance Pathfinder satellite. This modification definitizes the unpriced supplemental agreement awarded March 26/04 (with a not-to-exceed clause) of $46 million. The location of performance are Boeing in Huntington Beach, CA, and Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. in Boulder, CO. At this time, $82.7 million of the funds have been obligated. The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA manages the contract (FA8819-04-C-0002, P00016).
Oct 20/04: Northrop Grumman Space and Mission Systems in Redondo, Calif., is being awarded an $9 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification. The Northrop Grumman Mission Systems (NGMS) is currently on contract to develop and deliver a Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) Pathfinder satellite. This change order incorporates design changes critical to the development, launch and operation of the SBSS system. The award will be made to NGMS as a change order to an existing contract. At this time, $36,000 of the funds have been obligated. The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA manages the contract (FA8819-04-C-0002, P00011).
May 20/04: A Boeing/Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. team received a $189 million contract from the US Air Force for the Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) system. Ball Aerospace is responsible for the space segment including spacecraft bus and visible sensor payload. The team will develop a satellite and the ground segment, and will provide launch services. The team will also be responsible for mission planning, mission data processing and operation of the system for up to one year, prior to transitioning it to the Air Force. The Boeing/Ball team was chosen for the SBSS subcontract by Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, acting on behalf of the US Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.
March 24/04: Northrop Grumman Space and Mission Systems in Redondo Beach, CA received a $46 million cost-plus-award-fee contract. Northrop Grumman Mission Systems (NGMS) will develop and deliver a Space Based Space Surveillance Pathfinder satellite. These efforts include the purchase of materials and services necessary to design, build, launch and operate this single satellite with a visible sensor payload and to design, build and operate a ground segment to support initial satellite operations. The award will be made to NGMS as an undefinitized contract action to an existing contract. The locations of performance are Boeing in Huntington Beach, CA, and Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. in Boulder, CO. At this time, $23 million has been obligated. The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA manages the contract (FA8819-04-C-0002).
- Boeing – Space Based Surveillance (SBSS) System
- GlobalSecurity.org – Space Based Space Surveillance
- Wikipedia – Space Based Space Surveillance
- Deagel.com – Space-Based Space Surveillance System
- Space News (Oct 6/09) – Minotaur 4 Concerns Delay Launch of Space-Based Space Surveillance Sat
- Boeing (Feb 5/09) – Boeing SBSS System Progressing Toward 1st Launch
- Boeing (April 21/08) – Boeing and Ball Aerospace Achieve New Milestone for SBSS Program
- Boeing (Dec 11/07) – Boeing Completes Key Space Based Space Surveillance System Tests
- US Congress (Jan 11/01) – Report of the Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization