The United States Air Force has announced plans for a new generation of Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) systems, with a projected date of completion set for 2021.
Some people have scrutinized space-bound surveillance systems like the SBSS, believing they are nothing more than a waste of taxpayer dollars. However, the Air Force is actually well under it’s budget for the next-generation SBSS, telling Congress that it needed $11.5 million less than the amount it had originally requested. This is certainly good news, both for the American public and the U.S. Air Force, as it indicates the SBSS project is right on track.
Of course, the SBSS isn’t a new project by any means. The Air Force launched its current Block 10 pathfinder satellite back in 2010. But like all satellites, even the Block 10 pathfinder has a finite life. Reports suggest it will last until 2020, at which point it will lose power and eventually transmission with Earth-bound Air Force controllers. Officials are hoping to keep the SBSS project operational by launching a new generation of the SBSS system, which is scheduled for completion in 2021. Assuming these times are correct, that means there would be just a 1-year gap during which the SBSS program was inactive.
So, how does the SBSS work? Reports indicate that it hovers some 36,000 kilometers about the equator, monitoring the geosynchronous orbital belt. It’s one of the Air Force’s most important satellites, keeping tabs on other satellites owned and operated by countries like Russia and China.
Earlier this year, Congress approved $27 million for the Air Force’s SBSS systems, attesting to its significance. Due to rephasing, however, the Air Force said it needed just $15.8 million — $11.5 million less than the amount it had originally requested from Congress.
“The US is more dependent on space than any other nation. Yet the threat to the US and its allies in and from space does not command the attention it merits,” the commission warned.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that the next-generation SBSS system will become operational by its projected date of completion of 2021. Projects such as these almost always have setbacks — and that’s to be expected. Given the program’s successful track record, however, it’s safe to assume that it will be completed on or near 2021. In any case, you can check back with our blog to learn more about the next-generation SBSS and other military programs.