WASHINGTON — Millennium Space Systems and Raytheon Technologies said they passed design assessments for a U.S. Space Force program aimed at strengthening the service’s ability to detect and track missile threats.
The critical design reviews, or CDRs, which occurred in November, are for the Space Force’s Missile Track Custody program. The companies are both developing sensors to track missile threats from medium Earth orbit, or MEO, located between 1,200 and 22,000 miles above sea level.
Millennium, a subsidiary of Boeing, announced its successful review on Nov. 23 and Raytheon confirmed the milestone to C4ISRNET on Monday.
“Using the latest digital engineering techniques, we’ve successfully completed key design elements of the fully compliant payload design in just under 18 months,” Roger Cole, executive director of strategic systems programs at Raytheon, said in a statement.
Following the successful payload design review, the program will transition into space and ground segment development, Millennium said in its statement. That includes a digital design for the satellite that will carry the missile warning sensor.
“As shown during the mission payload CDR, a wholly-digital engineering environment will continue to be employed to shorten design cycles and further reduce cost,” according to the company.
The Missile Track Custody program is one piece of the Space Force’s plan to make its on-orbit missile warning and tracking capabilities more resilient against growing threats from China and Russia. Today, those satellites either reside in geosynchronous orbit — about 22,000 miles above Earth — or in highly elliptical orbit beyond GEO. Through Missile Track Custody, the service plans to launch warning and tracking satellites to MEO, where space sensors can observe a larger area.
The Space Development Agency is also launching a fleet of more than 100 satellites in low Earth orbit, or LEO, less than 1,200 miles above the equator.
The Space Force awarded Millennium and Raytheon contracts in May 2021 to develop digital models of missile warning sensors for the MEO-based program, but the value of those contracts was not disclosed. The service, which requested $135 million for the effort in its fiscal 2023 budget, plans to solicit bids next year for Missile Track Custody, but hasn’t disclosed whether it will choose more than one vendor to develop the satellites.
By 2028, the Space Force expects to have four MEO satellites on orbit with a goal of launching technology upgrades on a two-year cycle.
Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.