Space Based Space Surveillance

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The Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) system is a planned United States Space Force constellation of satellites and supporting ground infrastructure that will improve the ability of the United States Department of Defense (DoD) to detect and track space objects in orbit around the Earth.[1]

The SBSS development work is being conducted in coordination with the Space Situational Awareness Group in the Space Superiority Systems Wing of the Space and Missile Systems Center.[2]

Pathfinder satellite[edit]

SBSS 1 (2010-048A), the first of the SBSS satellites, passing through Cygnus on 1 September 2011

The first "pathfinder" satellite of the SBSS system (SBSS 1, aka USA 216, COSPAR 2010-048A, SATCAT 37168) was successfully placed into orbit on board a Minotaur IV rocket on 26 September 2010 (UTC).[3][4] Originally, the launch was scheduled for December 2008 but was rescheduled for Spring of 2009,[5] and again delayed until 22 October 2009. The launch delays were caused by problems with the booster, and not the satellite itself.[6] A launch expected for 8 July 2010 [7] was also postponed.[8] The program cost US$823 million, including satellite, payload, launch, and ground support. [citation needed]The satellite and payload contracts to Ball Aerospace & Technologies are approximately 40% of the total. It is designed to examine every spacecraft in geosynchronous orbit at least once a day.[6]

The SBSS pathfinder satellite has a 30 cm telescope on a two axis gimbal with a 2.4 megapixel image sensor and has a projected mission duration of five and a half years.[9]

Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program[edit]

The first two GSSAP spacecraft were launched in 2014, and a further two was launched on 19 August 2016 (USA-270 and USA-271). The first two were built by Orbital Sciences Corporation; their capabilities and development and construction budgets are classified. They operate in "near-geosynchronous orbit",[10][11] The first launch was scheduled for 23 July 2014 aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV launch vehicle.[12]

Even during the testing process these satellites were pressed into early service to fulfill critical needs.[13]

On 12 September 2017, the third and fourth satellites were declared operational.[14]

Two more satellites (GSSAP-5 and GSSAP-6) have been successfully launched on 21 January 2022 by a Atlas V launch vehicle.[15] USA-270 approached two Chinese satellites in GEO to examine them more closely.[16] In 2023, Chinese researchers reported having observed 13 other instances where US satellites approached Chinese ones.[17]

In August 2023 the Space Systems Command announced the retirement of the GSSAP-2 satellite, the first of the constellation to be decommissioned, and its subsequent transfer into a graveyard orbit. Moreover, it revealed that two more satellites have been ordered to Northrop Grumman to keep up with the demand for GSSAP assets.[18] The launches of the new satellites are planned for 2024 and 2027 respectively, with the spacecraft being the first of the constellation not to be launched in pairs.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Boeing and Ball Aerospace Achieve New Milestone for SBSS Program". Boeing. 21 April 2008. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008.
  2. ^ "Boeing Completes Hardware Installation for SBSS Satellite Operations Center". Boeing. 28 April 2008. Archived from the original on 4 July 2008.
  3. ^ "Minotaur IV and V". Orbital Sciences Corporation. 2008.
  4. ^ "Vandenberg launches Minotaur IV". 30th Space Wing Public Affairs. 2010. Archived from the original on 7 October 2010. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ "Boeing SBSS System Progressing Toward 1st Launch". Boeing. 2009. Archived from the original on 13 February 2009.
  6. ^ a b "Launcher Issues Blamed for 14-Month SBSS Slip". Space News. 31 December 2009. Retrieved 6 November 2022.
  7. ^ Boeing Team Ships First SBSS Spacecraft To Launch Site
  8. ^ "Launch delayed for satellite to watch space debris - Yahoo! News". Archived from the original on 16 July 2010. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  9. ^ "Space Based Space Surveillance". Ball Aerospace. Retrieved 6 November 2022.
  10. ^ Neighborhood watch in space, Aviation Week and Space Technology, 4 August 2014, p.12
  11. ^ Butler, Amy (21 February 2014). "USAF Reveals Classified, New Spy Satellite". Aviation Week & Sapce Technology. Archived from the original on 26 February 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  12. ^ Harper, Jon (22 July 2014). "Air Force launching satellites to spy on other satellites". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  13. ^ Gruss, Mike (18 September 2015). "Space Surveillance Sats Pressed into Early Service". SpaceNews. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  14. ^ Espinosa, Shellie-Anne (13 September 2017). "Two new satellites now operational, expand U.S. space situational awareness". Air Force Space Command Public Affairs. Retrieved 15 September 2017. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  15. ^ Graham, William (21 January 2022). "ULA's Atlas V launches satellite-inspection mission for Space Force". NASASpaceFlight. Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  16. ^ Werner, Debra (16 June 2022). "An In-Orbit Game of Cat and Mouse: Close approaches prompt calls for communications and norms". SpaceNews.
  17. ^ Tamim, Baba (7 May 2023). "US conducted 14 spy missions on China's satellites in 2 years, claims Chinese study".
  18. ^ Erwin, Sandra (15 August 2023). "U.S. deactivates GSSAP surveillance satellite, two new ones in the works". Retrieved 18 August 2023.
  19. ^ Hadley, Greg (17 August 2023). "Space Force Deactivates One Space Surveillance Satellite, Sets Plans for Two More". Air & Space Forces Magazine. Retrieved 18 August 2023.