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Boost Surveillance and Tracking System (BSTS)

The SDI as initially envisioned was to be a nearly leak proof multi-layer defense against massive Soviet ICBM and SLBM attacks through combined boost phase, post boost, midcourse, and ground terminal defense layers. Surveillance, Acquisition, Tracking, and Kill Assessment portion of the SDI program comprised the Boost Surveillance and Tracking System (BSTS), the Space Surveillance and Tracking System (SSTS), the Ground-Based Radar (GBR), and the Airborne Optical Adjunct (AOA) elements, as well as the sensor technology and phenomenology supporting these systems.

The original boost and post boost defense concept required a very advanced missile warning system which detected launches and maintained precision track on each missile in a mass raid through booster and PBV burnout in order to provide near real time boost and post boost phase fire control data to a constellation of space based interceptors (SBI). These requirements resulted in the high altitude Boost Surveillance and Track System (BSTS) with very large optics, and very large and complex mosaic or scanning focal planes along with unprecedented levels of onboard signal and data processing.

The BSTS would have to detect any missile launch, give warning, and begin to establish track files for the individual rockets. Most system architects proposed a constellation of several satellites in high orbit. Each BSTS would carry a sensor suite that would monitor infrared (IR) emissions from the rocket plumes. From their very high altitude, these sensors would have relatively poor optical resolution. Track files could be started, but the Space Surveillance and Tracking System (SSTS) or other sensors at lower altitude might be required to achieve the track file accuracy needed for some BMD functions. Demonstration/Validation tests of the BSTS technology were to demonstrate the ability of the technology to perform required tasks, and will validate a future decision on whether to proceed with Full-Scale Development. Demonstration/Validation tests would be conducted at the National Test Facility, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station/Eastern Test Range, and at contractor facilities. Test would include analyses, simulations, component/assembly tests, and flight tests.

The cost and risk of BSTS development, coupled with the challenge of guaranteed distribution of fire control data to thousands of interceptors, was a significant factor in the decision to suspend the BSTS effort.

In 1989 the competition between Lockheed and Grumman to determine which company will build BSTS was deferred until 1991 to provide more time for work on sensors and computers, with the initial flight of the BSTS satellite planned for 1995. Deployment of the BSTS was also claimed to provide improved early warning of missile attack, and enhanced intelligence collection and verification capabilities. The BSTS would have been much larger and more capable that the current DSP early warning satellites. The current DSP requires about 1275 watts of power, while BSTS power requirements ranged from 4 to 6 kilowatts. The DSP spacecraft sensors have focal plane arrays with about 6,700 sensor elements, while the Grumman scanning array has about 80,000 sensor elements and the Lockheed staring array sensor has up to 8 million sensor elements. But the cost of a DSP satellite is about $350 million, while the cost of a BSTS satellite is closer to $1 billion. There large number of DSP spacecraft under contract, led to doubts about the near-term need to replace this system with BSTS. And the drastic increase in performance capability led to concerns that BSTS might violate the ABM Treaty.

In 1990 SD10 significantly revised the Phase I architecture when it replaced the Space-Based Interceptor with Brilliant Pebbles and dropped the Boost Surveillance and Tracking System. The SDIO's decision to replace the SBI system with a system using many highly autonomous interceptors affected the Boost Surveillance and Tracking System (BSTS) as well as SBI. The independent targeting capabilities to be incorporated into each autonomous interceptor reduced the SDIO's requirements for separate systems of sensors such as BSTS, and management of BSTS was therefore transferred to the Air Force, after spending about $1 billion on BSTS research and development.

As Air Force program, the system would improve upon and replace the existing DSP system. It would detect and track enemy missiles but would not have to provide extremely accurate targeting information that would allow kinetic or directed energy weapons to shoot the missiles down. After being transferred to the Air Force, BSTS was renamed the Advanced Warning System (AWS) and then the Follow-on Early Warning System (FEWS).

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