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SDA developing FOO Fighter counter-hypersonic programme

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, on 14 February 2024. (US Space Force)

The Pentagon's Space Development Agency (SDA) has awarded a USD414 million deal to build a series of new satellites, presumably capable of early warning and precision tracking of hypersonic missile systems.

Agency officials selected California-based Millennium Space Systems to construct the eight fire-control satellites as part of the SDA's Fire-control On Orbit-support-to-the-war Fighter (FOO Fighter) programme, according to an agency statement. The space vehicles (SVs) and associated payloads for the FOO Fighter satellites “will demonstrate advanced missile defence capability by incorporating fire control-quality sensors into a prototype constellation”, SDA officials said in the statement.

The eight satellites, which SDA anticipates to be launched into orbit by the first quarter of fiscal year (FY) 2027, “will accelerate fire-control capability” for the agency's Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA) programme. Specifically, agency officials are looking to develop and mature the SDA's counter-hypersonic capability in Tranche 2 Tracking Layer (T2TL) of the PWSA.

The Tracking Layer is one of several capability sections or layers within the space architecture, each one supported by constellations of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. The PWSA layers are designed to enable a series of space-based capabilities, ranging from advanced missile threat detection, including hypersonic-capable weapons, to extending the range of current LEO satellite communications (satcom) constellations to beyond-line-of-sight ranges.

“Ultimately, as we deliver these tranches, we'll deliver global persistent stereo coverage to detect and track hypersonic and advanced missile threats,” an SDA official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told reporters in February.

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