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Raytheon Satellite Provides Early Warning Of Enemy Missile Launches

By | October 23, 2006

      An infrared satellite will provide the United States with early warning of enemy satellite launches, Raytheon Co. [RTN] reported.

      The satellite will have a sensor with a focal plane array large enough to capture images of the entire earth from a geosynchronous orbit, according to Raytheon, which will develop the satellite under a $54.4 million Air Force Research Laboratory contract that the company announced was awarded last month.

      That Alternate Infrared Satellite System program will have Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems design and build a developmental integrated sensor assembly for the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.

      The Air Force is seeking to develop a solution with lower cost and risk than the geosynchronous missile warning satellite in parallel development by another contractor for the third Space Based Infrared System.

      Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] is the prime contractor and systems integrator for the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) High program. SBIRS High is the nation’s next-generation missile warning system and will also provide greatly expanded capabilities for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.

      “The program takes advantage of a single full-earth staring instrument to look for infrared plumes and provide early warning of ballistic missile launches,” said Brian Arnold, vice president for Strategic Systems. “The lack of moving parts allows for a lighter, more affordable payload and fewer opportunities for component failure, while the non-moving, wide-angle infrared optics capture the earth’s surface at high fidelity.”

      With the staring approach, the warfighter will be able to detect infrared events of brief duration, such as the activity of short-range theater missiles.

      Expected in 2008, a decision to produce either system will depend on the developmental success of the geosynchronous satellites and the maturity of the technology demonstrated by the Alternative Infrared Satellite System, according to the Air Force.

      The Raytheon effort follows the back-to-basics approach directed by Ronald Sega, under secretary of the Air Force.

      The program is scheduled to complete critical design review next spring and deliver hardware a year later.

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