Orbital Focus - International Spaceflight Facts and Figures
carousel image
STSS Demonstrator Mission

Tyneside, UK
2022 Dec 4
Sunday, Day 338

Curated by:

Sensor Tests:


Press Release - mentions "Emerging Technologies"
2010 Jun 29 - Missile Tracking Test

2010 June, the US Missile Defence Agency, the same body that manages the STSS Demonstrator Mission, conducted a mid-Pacific missile launch. The STSS Demonstrator pair were well placed to monitor the test.

Missile TestAfter this analysis was completed, news came that a Minuteman III test from Vandenberg AFB two weeks earlier had also been monitored by the STSS Demonstrator pair.

In "Jonathan's Space Report", Issue 630 of July 17, Jonathan McDowell provides details the launching of what might have been a captured "Scud" missile in the US Army's arsenal.

The missile was released from a Mobile Launch Platform stationed out to sea near the island of Kauai which is at the western end of the Hawaiian Chain. The launch occurred on Jun 29 UTC (Jun 28 locally). The Mobile Launch Platform itself is a converted, de-commissioned US Navy amphibious assault ship formerly known as the USS Tripoli.

The Event

According to a press release, the launch was conducted by the Missile Defense Agency and the US Army in a successful intercept test for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense element of the national Ballistic Missile Defense System. The 'Scud' was launched at 07:32 UTC from the Mobile Launch Platform, and about five minutes later a THAAD interceptor missile was launched from the nearby Pacific Missile Range Facility.

The press release went on to say, in a rather enigmatic way, "Several missile defense assets and emerging technologies observed the launch and gathered data for future analysis.....". Emerging Technologies are represented by the STSS Demonstrator satellites and their missile detecting sensors developed for the same Agency that conducted the missile test.

Eyes in the Sky

The map shows the locations of the STSS Demonstrator pair at the moment the Scud was launched. They were still separated by just over 36 degrees of orbital angle, just as when they settled down into their operational configuration five months earlier. More detail on this can be found under Radio Monitoring of Operations, that can also be found in the left hand menu.

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 and Kauai was almost perfectly central to the overlap area, putting it in the combined satellites' stereoscopic viewing area. Where the previous tests involved missiles rising from the Earth's limb, this one saw the missile coming up from below but still against a dark visual background from the shadowed side of the Earth.

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 from Alaska, across the Pacific, and down to north-east Australia. 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.
Copyright © Robert Christy, all rights reserved
Reproduction of this web page or any of its content without permission from the website owner is prohibited