Missile Detection Satellites
As of early 2015, Russia was not able to detect missile launches by means of its Oko missile warning satellite system. The last two of the system’s HEO satellites ceased operations in January 2015, and the last of Oko’s GEO satellites experienced a power problem in mid-2014, taking it offline. Oko is supposed to be composed of six satellites, some in GEO and others in HEO.
There were two SBIRS GEO satellites and two SBIRS HEO payloads in operation by the end of 2014. These operated in concert with the older DSP satellites to fulfill all four missions. Two more SBIRS GEO satellites will be added to the SBIRS constellation, possibly around 2020. The USAF continues to pursue plans established in 1995 for integrating all OPIR satellite data, developing a new ground system and testing transmission of commands to multiple systems in March 2015.
U.S missile defense has its roots in the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), announced in 1983 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan. SDI was initially intended to defend the United States against the launch of thousands of nuclear-tipped Soviet missiles. SDI would have used a combination of advanced space and ground systems to shoot the missiles out of the sky.
Near the beginning of 2015, Russia’s Oko early warning missile detection satellite system was non-functional. The country remained without space-based missile detection capability until late 2015, when Russia’s military launched the first satellite of its next-generation early warning satellite constellation, called Tundra.
The USAF continued missile detection operations in 2015 using a combination of legacy Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites, two Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO satellites, and three SBIRS HEO sensor payloads hosted on classified satellites. The growth and evolution of the infrared satellites deployed in various orbits allows the USAF uninterrupted monitoring in the infrared spectrum of activities around the world, 24 hours a day.
Missile detection and warning satellites, a type of system first launched into orbit more than forty years ago, are used to monitor potential threats on a global scale. They provide a very high vantage point, using complex systems and technologies to provide notification of possible hostile activities, such as missile launches occurring in areas of interest.