Budget Busters: The USA’s SBIRS-High Missile Warning Satellites
March 3/15: The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center finished a three-day test of the Increment 2 ground control system for SBIRS. The Increment 2 system features a single control center to operate all three types of satellite, with a single backup system.
Jan 23/15: With U.S. Commerce Department commercial satellite image resolution limits being somewhat lifted starting in February, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is moving to exploit what is expected to be a flood of additional imagery resources with quicker update frequencies. The move shows a new willingness to look to commercial alternatives, which are proving very significantly cheaper than military-run satellite projects.
The Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS)-High satellite program is a key component of the USA’s future missile alert system, designed to give maximum warning and monitoring of ballistic missile launches anywhere in the world. The new satellites will replace the existing Defense Support Program (DSP) fleet. Their infrared sensors have 3x the sensitivity of DSP and 2x the revisit rate, while providing better persistent coverage.
Unfortunately, the program has been beset by massive cost overruns on the order of 400%, technical challenges that continue to present problems, and uncertainties about performance. Despite these problems, the U.S. Air Force is proceeding with the program, and has terminated potential alternatives and supplements. However, as part of a January 2015 effort to institute cost reforms, the Air Force will weaken requirements for the program, and at least three other major procurement programs.
SBIRS – High: Current State
SBIRS: Budgets & Next Steps
Contracts and Key Events
FY 2014 – 2015
Background: Space Vehicles
News & Views
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