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STSS Demonstrator Mission

Tyneside, UK
2022 Dec 4
Sunday, Day 338

Curated by:

Sensor Tests:


Press Release - mentions "Emerging Technologies"
2010 Jun 16 - Missile Tracking Test

2010 mid-July, the US establishment let it be known that a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test-launch from Vandenberg AFB on June 16 was monitored by the STSS Demonstrator pair of satellites.

The Launch

Missile TestA Missile Defense Agency press release reported the launch time as 10:01 UTC and said that the missile's single re-entry test vehicle traveled approximately 2,600 kilometres before hitting a pre-determined target near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The mission was designated designated Glory Trip 200GM-1, to mark the fact it was the 200th scheduled test launch of a Minuteman.

The powered phase of the flight lasted three minutes in total, with all three of the Minuteman's stages burning out in that time. The missile then took a further 25 minutes to travel from the Vandenberg area to hit its target at the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site.

The photo on the right is of the launch, that took place in darkness, at 03:01 local time in Hawaii.

STSS Demonstrator

A press release from Northrop Grumman revealed that STSS Demonstrator satellites transmitted their tracking data to the Missile Defense Integration and Operations Center at Schreiver Air Force Base, Colorado for analysis.

View from Orbit

The launch time was chosen carefully to give the satellites a view of the launch from from the very edge of the Earth's limb as seen from their location. They were separated by a little over 36 degrees of orbital angle - the operational standard.

The map shows the locations of the STSS Demonstrator pair at the moment the Minuteman was launched. In both cases, Vandenberg Air Force Base is just at the extreme edge of each satellite's field of view. This allowed them to see the missile rising vertically from the limb of the Earth against the space backgound. With both the Earth and the sky being dark, the contrast at near-visible wavelengths would have been very pronounced.

Missile Test

The satellites were travelling south-east as indicated by the arrow. Satellite footprints, or fields of view, are indicated by the cyan-coloured boundaries. Vandenberg was directly below the point at which the two footprints met. The ground track shown belongs to STSS Demonstrator SV-2, the leader of the pair. Being a few minutes behind but in the same orbit plane, SV-1 followed a track a little to the west as a result of the Earth's rotation. Where the track is coloured yellow, SV2 was in sunlight and the red section of track indicates that the satellite was in shadow. The Earth's day/night terminator runs across Canada and the Arctic regions, and then down through Kamchatka and Japan. The night side is indicated by the darker-coloured sea and land.

The map was produced using the satellite Tracking program 'Orbitron'. Ground tracks are based on element sets produced by amateur observers and published from time to time by Mike McCants in his "classified.tle" elements file.

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