SBSS Complete

One of the Air Force’s leading space situational awareness projects, the space based space surveillance satellite, is complete and is now ready to ship to the launch site, Gary Payton, the Air Force’s deputy undersecretary for space programs, said Thursday. Speaking with reporters during a Space Foundation symposium in Colorado, Payton said work on the SBSS pathfinder satellite concluded at Ball Aerospace’s clean room facilities and all testing of the spacecraft has wrapped up. Ball is part of the Boeing-led industry team supplying the satellite. “This is an acquisition success in space,” Payton said, highlighting the fact that the SBSS project has come in on budget and on schedule. Project engineers are now waiting on the resolution of a few “potential technical issues” associated with the SBSS launch vehicle, an Orbital Sciences Minotaur rocket. In February, NASA lost its Orbital Carbon Observatory satellite when the fairing on the host Orbital-built Taurus launch vehicle, which shares components with the Minotaur, failed to release the satellite. Payton said the Air Force wants to be sure that there are no potential issues with the Minotaur before launch. SBSS, which will monitor objects in geosynchronous orbit from its own position in low Earth orbit, will be a much-welcomed boost to the Air Force’s suite of sensors for monitoring activities in space. It will replace the now-retired visible sensor on the Midcourse Space Experiment as the only space-based space monitoring sensor.