Northrop Grumman contract to provide Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor prototype


According to a contract released by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) on January 22, 2021, Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Redondo Beach, California, is being awarded a firm-fixed-price Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor prototype award with a total value of $155,030,206 through the United States Missile Defense Agency’s authority.
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Northrop Grumman is developing a highly capable, affordable, survivable and extensible space-based sensing solution for hypersonic and ballistic missile defense. The company’s concept advances under the HBTSS Phase IIa program (Source: Northrop Grumman).


This prototype award was competitively solicited among awardees of the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor Phase IIA effort, which was competitively awarded as a prototype other transaction pursuant to 10 U.S. Code § 2371b. Four proposals were received. Under this award, the performer will provide the Missile Defense Agency’s Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor program with an on-orbit prototype demonstration, culminating with launch and early orbit testing.

Northrop Grumman is developing a highly capable, affordable, survivable and extensible space-based sensing solution for hypersonic and ballistic missile defense. The company’s concept advances under the HBTSS ( Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor) Phase IIa program (Source: Northrop Grumman).

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Space Development Agency (SDA) are currently developing elements of a hypersonic missile defense system to defend against hypersonic weapons and other emerging missile threats. These elements include the tracking and transport layers of the National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA and various interceptor programs. 

In order to have global, persistent tracking of an incoming hypersonic threat, MDA (Missile Defense Agency) plans to develop specialized space-based sensors through its Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) program. MDA officials envision using new space-based sensors versus existing ground-based sensors due to the gap in coverage of detection and tracking, as most ground-based radars track flight paths at much higher altitudes than a hypersonic interceptor flies.

Hypersonic weapons, like ballistic missiles, fly at speeds of at least Mach 5, or roughly 1 mile per second. Unlike ballistic missiles, hypersonic weapons do not follow a ballistic trajectory and can maneuver en route to their target.

The maneuverability and low flight altitude of hypersonic weapons could challenge existing detection and defense systems. For example, most terrestrial-based radars cannot detect hypersonic weapons until late in the weapon’s flight due to line-of-sight limitations of radar detection. This leaves minimal time for a defender to launch interceptors that could neutralize an inbound weapon.


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