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Brilliant Eyes

Space systems could play a very important role in future strategic defences. Even in the 1991 Gulf War, space-based sensors provided key initial warning information on the Scuds and, after analysis in Colorado Springs, key data were provided via a hot line to wake up the Patriot batteries in Israel and Saudi Arabia. Future space sensor systems would provide far more effective support for theatre defences. Similarly, US ground-based defensive systems would depend upon the timely development and deployment of space-based sensors such as the Brilliant Eyes system.

The technological basis for the low-altitude follow-on system to track missiles in the middle portion of their trajectories had also been an SDI program. It had been known as the Space Surveillance and Tracking System (SSTS) during the mid and late 1980s and as Brilliant Eyes during the early 1990s.

The original SDI multi-layer defense concept against massive strategic attacks employed an above the horizon space surveillance equivalent to BSTS called the Space Surveillance and Tracking System (SSTS). SSTS was dropped along with BSTS when the mission was de-scoped to GPALS and the Brilliant Eyes concept was introduced in its place to detect, discriminate, and hand over midcourse targets either to Brilliant Pebbles for early midcourse intercept or to ground based defense for late midcourse or terminal intercept. A constellation of 20 to 30 small (around 1500 Kg ) Brilliant Eyes satellites was required to perform this mission.

The key role of Brilliant Eyes is to support Theater Missile Defense by providing the capability for world-wide tracking of ballistic missiles in flight from launch to re-entry. Brilliant Eyes will provide precise and timely launch point estimates to enable prompt counterstrikes against missile launchers. It will cue ground-based radars to acquire incoming missiles or warheads. Brilliant Eyes will then assess the status of these targets. During peacetime, Brilliant Eyes monitors ballistic missile tests worldwide by collecting threat development, deployment, signature and trajectory data. This allows defenses to maintain and optimize their effectiveness as new threats appear.

In addition, Brilliant Eyes provides more data for accurate impact point and time predictions than existing systems, greatly reducing the number of units that it takes for operating inhibiting countermeasures. Brilliant Eyes satellites will also be used for surveillance of objects in space, helping to prevent collisions between satellites, spacecraft and space debris. Brilliant Eyes is currently in the demonstration and validation phase.

The BE midcourse mission is performed with a very narrow field of view (less than 1 degree) tasked, staring, visible and M/LWIR sensor. The LEO flight test program was to demonstrate intermediate wave bands adequate for detection of warmer, shorter range theater missile midcourse targets. There was also a design and an unfunded flight test option to add additional cooling and a longer wavelength IR focal plane to provide capability against strategic missile targets which are cooler and have less radiant energy.

In the early 1990s, Space-based elements included Brilliant Eyes and Brilliant Pebbles. Both programs had experienced considerable change over time as a result of the SDI's uncertain fortunes. Brilliant Pebbles envisioned satellite interceptors designed to demolish ballistic missiles in their midcourse and terminal phases of flight. The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization's space-based interceptor was limited to a technology base program, with the objective only of developing technologies as security against potential future threats."

Brilliant Eyes, however, drew more interest from Air Force space officials who sought to improve theater space surveillance capabilities after Desert Storm. The Brilliant Eyes concept called for a "distributed" satellite network consisting of several hundred spacecraft with infrared and laser sensors orbiting at 700 kilometers, capable of tracking missiles in their midcourse phase, discriminating among reentry vehicles and decoys, and predicting impact points. Like national reconnaissance assets, these satellites would also perform an arms control monitoring function.

The Brilliant Eyes system carried a much smaller (in aperture, weight, and power) below the horizon scanning sensor to acquire missiles during the boost phase and provide a precision internal hand over to the narrow field of view tasked tracking sensor. The BTH acquisition sensor has a "horizon to horizon" field of regard but was originally designed to be operated in a tasked mode in the sense that it was assigned to detect and track launches only in a "hot spot" 1500 Km in diameter.

Air Force Space Command had been interested in Brilliant Eyes because of its relationship with plans to upgrade the DSP early warning satellites. On the other hand, it seemed that the project did not address the command's space surveillance requirements. Following the Gulf War, the issue became more complicated when the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization decided to refocus the program to emphasize theater missile defense. The new concept called for development in stages to provide both national and global protection against ballistic missiles. The reoriented Brilliant Eyes distributed sensor program, now managed by Air Force Space Command, led Air Force space authorities to reexamine the operational implications for their own missile warning and space surveillance requirements.

In the early 1980s, the Air Force had studied a replacement program called the Advanced Warning System, which the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization absorbed in 1984 and renamed Boost Surveillance and Tracking System. By the end of the decade, pressure from a Congress worried about violating the anti-ballistic missile treaty led instead to the Organization's adoption of Brilliant Eyes and the return ofthe Boost Surveillance and Tracking System to the Air Force as a potential DSP replacement. By 1991 a modified version of the program reemerged as the Follow-on Early Warning System (FEWS). A number of studies compared FEWS with various alternatives, including a combination of Brilliant Eyes and DSP satellites and a modified DSP system. A replacement for DSP still had not been determined by the time the Clinton administration assumed office in early 1993.

By 1994 a new regenerator for cryocoolers had been invented. Phase I has demonstrated that the regenerator can be fabricated as conceived. The new regenerator should improve performance of the "Brilliant Eyes" cryocoolers by more than 20 percent without modifications. New cryocoolers designed from scratch to utilize the new technology have the potential to double current cryocooler performance, dramatically improving the ratio of heat transfer to pressure drop, through regenerator. This results in improved net refrigeration and coefficient of performance, which are particularly important for space applications, where payload and power consumption are critical. Higher COP means that a smaller cryocooler can do the same job as a larger one. Higher COP is also important in tactical cryocooler applications where batteries are the power source: the batteries last longer. The regenerator can be fabricated from a variety of materials, including materials with high heat capacity at temperatures approaching absolute zero.

The Clinton administration made clear its shift of priorities to theater defense in the form of land-based ABM systems and adherence to the ABM Treaty. The Clinton administration made drastic cuts in funding for the space-based Brilliant Pebbles interceptor system. Nevertheless, the administration continued research for other space-based systems. In particular, "enhanced" launch detection is viewed as crucial to effective land-based interceptors. The Clinton administration requested $250 million for Brilliant Eyes in the FY 1994 budget, $10 million more than budgeted in 1993.

During the 1994 Space Based Infrared [SBIR] study it was shown that the BTH sensor could be operated so as to detect and track launches in its entire (horizon to horizon) field of regard with minimal weight and power increases. The "horizon to horizon" capability would allow the BE system to do the missile warning mission as well as the midcourse tracking and hand off to the BMD element. This "horizon to horizon " capability was included in the flight demonstration system and became the SBIR LEO baseline.

SMC awarded contracts for on-orbit demonstrations to TRW on 2 May 1995 and to Boeing on 2 September 1996. However, the program began a gradual transfer of oversight back to the Missile Defense Agency during the same period, where it was renamed Space-Based Infrared System Low [SBIRS Low].

On May 02, 1995 TRW, Incorporated, Redondo Beach, California, was awarded a $15,313,843 face value increase to a Cost Plus Award Fee contract to restructure the Brilliant Eyes (BE) Demonstration and Validation contract. Approximately 37.2% of this work will be performed at the Hughes Aircraft Company in El Segundo, California. Contract is expected to be completed by December 2000. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California is the contracting activity (F04701-92-C-0062/P00029).

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Page last modified: 21-07-2011 13:04:03 ZULU