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US Space Force funds next stage of medium Earth orbit missile tracking system program

Missile Track Custody
Photo: Raytheon

The US Space Force has awarded Raytheon Intelligence & Space and Millennium Space Systems further $605 million for the development of prototypes for the Missile Track Custody program, which is poised to become the service’s first medium Earth orbit missile tracking system.

The latest contract will see companies deliver a space vehicle that would host a missile tracking mission payload and ground-based command and control and mission-data processing elements.

The service awarded the follow-on contracts after selecting the two companies for work under the program in May 2021.

Once operational, Missile Track Custody will complement the space force’s fleet of missile warning satellites in the geosynchronous Earth orbit, located over 20,000 miles above the Earth. The medium Earth orbit system is expected to operate at an altitude of between 1,000 and 2,000 miles.

Detailing its solution, Raytheon said it would also deliver the command and control and real-time mission- data processing elements for MTC. The ground system will use the future operationally resilient ground evolution mission data processing application framework (FORGE MDPAF). This framework collects and processes data from satellites, including overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) space vehicle data from both Space Force’s space-based infrared system (SBIRS) constellation and the future next-generation OPIR constellation.

“This is an advanced solution to counter emerging missile threats facing our country,” said Roger Cole, executive director, Strategic Systems programs, Raytheon Intelligence & Space. “From its MEO perch, our system will enable Space Force to accurately detect and track adversarial hypersonic weapons with precision accuracy.”

Raytheon Intelligence & Space’s mission payload, which passed critical design review in November 2022, will be integrated onto an LM400 satellite bus.

“Lockheed Martin is excited to provide our mid-sized, rapidly-producible LM400 bus to Raytheon, supporting our customer’s mission to deliver initial warfighting capability with Missile Track Custody Epoch 1,” said Mike Corriea, vice president, Lockheed Martin’s Overhead Persistent Infrared mission area. “Lockheed Martin will leverage a full suite of digital engineering tools to produce satellites that are dramatically more responsive and flexible, at a fraction of the cost and delivery time for our customers.”

The team plans to complete a system critical design review in 2023, followed by a build, integration, and test campaign to deliver capability to orbit by 2026. Work for this program will be executed in El Segundo, California, and Aurora, Colorado.