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Defense Support Program (DSP) (U)

Overview (U):

(U) The Defense Support Program (DSP) is a system consisting of non-imaging infrared (IR) sensing satellites in geostationary orbits and associated ground systems. For strategic applications, the latter include fixed and mobile ground processing stations and an associated ground communications network (GCN) controlled via a Data Distribution Center (DDC) that governs the distribution of messages to users. For tactical applications, there is a Centralized Tactical Processing Element (CTPE) that fuses data at the sensor level from DSP satellites and other real-time sources to support Theater warfighters worldwide, but the communication resources required to link the CTPE to its data sources and those used to distribute tactical messages to the theater warfighters are controlled by external agencies. DSP's primary mission is to provide near real-time tactical warning and limited assessment of a strategic ballistic missile attack and to support warning, missile defense, and attack operations in tactical contexts. DSP's IR capabilities also serve as a space based surveillance system to support intelligence activities to provide commanders with weapons performance and derived data and national leaders with threat and foreign technology development information, while DSP's NUDET capabilities support National Command Authority decision making in the areas of Treaty Monitoring, Integrated Tactical Warning/Attack Assessment and Nuclear Force Management.

Description (U):

(U) DSP is a high power, space based infrared detection system. Its main strategic function is to detect and report intercontinental and sub-launched ballistic missile (ICBM and SLBM) raids against the U.S. and its allies, and tactical ballistic missile (TBM) launches in areas of interest to theater warfighters worldwide. Users of DSP include: the National Command Authorities, Theater Commanders, NAIC, USSPACECOM, AFSPACECOM, and Air Force.

(U) DSP was developed by TRW and Aerojet, with the first launch in 1970. Since then, both the space and ground elements of the system have frequently been upgraded. To support DSP's collection of infrared emissions from launch plumes and other events of interest, the 6000+ detectors onboard the latest satellites combine two wavebands and provide comprehensive coverage, both above and below the horizon (ATH and BTH). Eighteen satellites have been launched since 1970, with another five planned over the coming years. The current on-orbit DSP configuration calls for four operational satellites and one on-orbit spare, but as a practical matter, all of the on-orbit satellites with remaining mission capability are exploited on an ad hoc basis, even after they are decommissioned from full-up operational status.

User Impact (U):

(U) Provide warfighters with detection and report of intercontinental and sub launched ballistic missile (ICBM and SLBM) raids against the U.S. and its allies, and tactical ballistic missile (TBM) launches in areas of interest to theater warfighters worldwide.

Programmatics (U):

(U) Operational.

Images (U):

DSPDefense Support Program
This Table Is Unclassified.

Related Initiatives (U):
Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)
ALERTAttack and Launch Early Report to Theater (ALERT)
Eastern RangeEastern Range
IUSInertial Upper Stage (IUS)
MSTIMiniature Sensor Technology Integration (MSTI)
Navy Area DefenseNavy Area Defense
Navy Theater-Wide TBMDNavy Theater Wide Theater Ballistic Missile Defense System (TBMD)
Radiant GOLDRadiant GOLD
SABRSSpace and Atmospheric Burst Reporting System (SABRS)
SBIRS HighSpace Based Infrared System (SBIRS) High
SBIRS-LowSpace-Based Infrared System - Low Earth Orbit (SBIRS-Low)
THAADTheater High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) System
Titan IVATitan IVA
Titan IVBTitan IVB
This Table Is Unclassified.

Related Requirements (U):None.

Related Categories (U):
Satellite OperationsSatellite Operations
Space-Based WarningSpace-Based Warning Systems
SurveillanceDoD Space Surveillance Programs
This Table Is Unclassified.

Road Map Placements (U):

Major DoD Space ProgramsEvolution of the Selected Space Programs
National Security Space Road MapIntegrated System Road Map
This Table Is Unclassified.

Requirements, Funding and Additional Hotlinks (U):

1998 Strategic Master Plan
SBIRS Homepage
RDT&E Budget Item Project 3624
This Table Is Unclassified.

Lead Office (U):

(U) Air Force.

(U) DoD: USD(A&T) and OASD(C3I), Pentagon, Washington, DC
(U) Service Staff: SAF/AQS, Pentagon, Washington, DC
(U) Major Command: HQ AFSPC, Peterson AFB, CO
(U) Program Management: HQ AFPEO/SP, Pentagon, Washington, DC; SBIRS Program Office, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles AFB, CA

Point of Contact (U):

(U) Col Dudley B. Killam, SMC/MT, Open Phone: (310) 363-1177, DSN 833-1177.

Date Of Information (U):

(U) 09 September 1998

(U) Road Map Production Date: 12 July 1999

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