Space Based Space Surveillance is designed to track, characterize, measure, and collect optical signatures of Earth-orbiting objects, including space vehicles and debris.
The Missile Defense Agency originally launched SBSS as a technology demonstrator to classify and track ballistic missiles in midcourse flight, before handing it over to AFSPC in 2011.
SBSS primarily uses a trainable, ground-controlled Space-Based Visible Sensor to track targets without repositioning. Potential high-end and even kinetic space threats from China and Russia have pushed orbital domain awareness to the top of AFSPC’s priority list.
AFSPC worked to extend SBSS service life and tasked one of its experimental Operationally Responsive Space satellites to cover a four-year gap in coverage until the newly established Space Force can launch a follow-on spacecraft now targeted for 2022.
ORS-5 launched Aug. 26, 2017, and is equipped with an optical sensor to provide rapid, continuous scanning to detect movement in geosynchronous orbit. The Space Force is seeking funds for a follow-on satellite to ORS-5 to enhance surveillance.
SBSS works in concert with an array of networked, ground-based sensors including the Space Fence wide-area search and surveillance system recently commissioned on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
SBSS collision-warning data was made openly available to the public starting in 2020 with the aim of improving domain awareness and orbital safety.
Contractors: Boeing (system integration, ground segment, operations, and sustainment); Ball Aerospace (satellite); Orbital ATK (ORS-5).
Operator/Location: USSF SpOC; Schriever SFB, Colo.
First Launch: Sept. 25, 2010.
IOC: Aug. 17, 2012 (SBSS); May 31, 2018 (ORS-5).
Design Life: Seven yr.
Launch Vehicle: Minotaur IV.
Constellation: One LEO satellite; one LEO augmentation satellite.
Active Satellites: •SBSS Block 10. Launched in 2010; active. •ORS-5. Experimental satellite launched in 2017 to augment SBSS; active.
Dimensions: Height approx 49 ft; 22ft x 20 ft (SBSS on-orbit); 5 ft x 2.5 ft (ORS-5).
Weight: Approx 5,525 lb (SBSS on orbit); approx 250 lbs (ORS-5).
Orbit Altitude: 390 miles, sun-synchronous orbit (SBSS); 372 miles, geo-synchronous orbit (ORS-5).
Power: Solar arrays and batteries generating 750 watts (SBSS); solar array and batteries (ORS-5).