US launched an orbital fleet to shadow Russian hypersonic missiles

Several satellites, masterfully engineered by L3Harris Technologies, have been triumphantly launched by the US Department of Defense [DoD]. The operation, spearheaded by the Missile Defense Agency’s [MDA] Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor [HBTSS] program in conjunction with the Space Development Agency’s [SDA] Tranche 0 [T0] Tracking Layer program, aims to significantly enhance the national defense network’s surveillance and tracking prowess.  

US launched an orbital fleet to shadow Russian hypersonic missiles
Photo credit: NYP

These state-of-the-art satellites usher in a revolutionary change in our approach to detecting and monitoring hypersonic missiles, effectively extending the reach of current ballistic missile detection systems. 

L3Harris Technologies’ Chair and CEO, Christopher E. Kubasik, underscored the immense significance of the satellites’ successful orbit insertion. He emphasized the pivotal role these celestial sentinels play in securing national safety. “With these advanced satellites now in orbit, the US is well-equipped with integrated and resilient missile warning and defense capabilities, which are essential in tackling the increasing advancements in maneuverable missile technology from potential adversaries,” said Kubasik.

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Data acquisition

In line with the strategic goals of the Department of Defense [DoD], this implementation aids in advancing the capabilities of the Space Development Agency’s expanded warfighter space architecture. The mission focuses on refining data collection and improving response strategies by incorporating missile tracking and defense sensors, which strengthens national defense against missile threats.  

L3Harris is currently leading two additional ISR satellite projects for the US, specifically the Tracking Layer Satellite Constellation 0 and Tracking Layer Satellite Constellation Tranche 1, as revealed in GlobalData’s report on the US Defense Market 2023-2028″.  

Russian Soyuz launch: speculations stir US over nuke-space weapon
Photo credit: Russian MoD

Looking into the future, the Department of Defense plans to use the knowledge gathered from these satellites to guide upcoming endeavors. L3Harris clinched a valuable $919m contract for the development of a constellation comprising 18 vehicles.

Geopolitical dynamics

In this ever-changing geopolitical landscape, strides such as the implementation of satellite systems underscore the urgency of outpacing emerging threats, including advanced maneuverable missiles. Keeping national security in sharp focus, investments in these cutting-edge technologies provide a robust defense against the progress of adversaries, safeguarding our nation’s safety and sovereignty amidst a progressively intricate global scenario.

Amid panic

As the New York Post reported, the inception of the satellite program occurred “amid panic”, due to the rise of an “undefined risk to the security of the United States. Late on Wednesday, the Pentagon confirmed the successful orbiting of the satellites, following US intelligence warnings of Russia’s intention to deploy nuclear weapons in space, targeting Western satellites. 

The Missile Defense Agency will garner support from two of the satellites as part of its Hypersonic and Ballistic Space Tracking Sensor program, while the remaining ones are designed for spacecraft tracking. The defense forces are augmenting their capabilities to surveil state-of-the-art weaponry capable of reaching or surpassing Mach 5, which would classify them as traveling at hypersonic speeds.

Russian satellite Kosmos-2570 detached two military objects - US
Photo credit: Russian Space Web

The “shock wave” of Wednesday

On Wednesday, an unexpected statement from Intelligence Chair Mike Turner [R-Ohio] sent Capitol Hill into a flurry of whispers. He mentioned an ambiguous but ominous threat to national security. He claimed, “Today, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence provided all Congressional members with information regarding a severe national security risk.” 

Turner avoided delving into specifics, yet numerous reports depicted the threat as extremely disturbing and disruptive. While an official confirmation is still pending, consensus, as per ABC News, suggests that the threat potentially refers to Russian plans to install a form of nuclear technology in space, thereby posing a conceivable risk to satellites.

The White House
Photo credit: Getty Images

The White House was caught off guard

There’s a prevailing notion that this technology is yet to see the light of day. The military brass conspicuously omitted any reference to the buzz that has been swirling about Russia’s alleged advanced space technology when they made the satellite projection. 

The sudden alarm, sounded by Congressman Turner, seemed to put the White House on the back foot. “The fact that Congressman Turner publicized his views today caught me slightly off guard,” quipped National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan during a press briefing on Wednesday.


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