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Miniature Sensor Technology Integration (MSTI)

The MSTI program is performing the first on-orbit functional demonstrations of low-cost integrated sensor technologies that support theater missile launch detection and tracking. The MSTI program transitioned from BMDO to the Air Force in 1994. The program demonstrated for the first time that small spacecraft can be placed on orbit for less than $50M within 12-24 months from a decision to proceed. Lessons learned through MSTI research and development efforts will be applied to other follow-on DOD and civilian systems like the ALARM (Alert, Locate, and Report Missiles), SMTS (Space Missile Tracking System), and EOSAT (Earth Observation Satellite) systems.


The first satellite in the MSTI series was launched into a Sun synchronous polar orbit with an inclination of 97 degrees on 21 November 1992 from Vandenberg AFB, California, on a NASA SCOUT booster. MSTI-1 succeeded in meeting all primary mission objectives, surpassing the 6-day data collection mission requirement. During the primary mission, the payload, which consists of an infrared sensor assembly, mirror and drive system, scanned the Earth to obtain background information to evaluate target and background signature data for future MSTI flights.

The spacecraft operated in its 400-km polar orbit until the spring of 1993 and collected well in excess of 100,000 frames of background data in the medium wave infrared wavebands. The camera imaged distinct land mass features on the Baja California peninsula, various cloud cover patterns and has detected the firing of a solid-rocket motor at the U.S. Air Force Phillips Laboratory at California's Edwards Air Force Base. The detection of the rocket firing was part of a demonstration to test the feasibility of detecting and tracking missiles using miniature sensors in space.

The MSTI satellite was an octagon structure 123 centimeters (48 inches) high, 97 centimeters (38 inches) in diameter and weighs approximately 168 kilograms (370 pounds). Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, CA) built the MSTI-1 sensors for the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) for $15 million. The MSTI-1 spacecraft weighed just 150 kg and was built for $19M in less than 12 months. The mission paved the way for the more sophisticated detection and tracking payload on MSTI-2.


The second MSTI satellite, MSTI-2, was launched into LEO on 8 May 1994 aboard the last NASA SCOUT booster with a 6-month primary mission to demonstrate theater ballistic missile (TBM) tracking. The 170-kg MSTI-2 was injected into a 355-km x 455-km polar orbit and then executed an orbit raise to its final orbit--432-km circular, sun-synchronous, 97.13-degree inclination.

On 8 May, MSTI-2 successfully acquired and tracked a Minuteman III launched from Vandenberg AFB. More than 3 million short wavelength infrared (SWIR) and medium wavelength infrared (MWIR) image frames were obtained from MSTI-2, which reentered on March 20, 1995. Loral Electro-Optics Division (Pasadena, CA) manufactured the MSTI-2 sensors. On-board trackfile processing technologies were demonstrated under the BMDO-sponsored Navy Lightweight Exo-Atmospheric Projectile (LEAP) interceptor technology demonstration program. Under a cooperative effort with Talon Shield, target observations from MSTI-2 operating at low altitude were fused with Defense Support Program data to investigate techniques to increase the accuracy of target trajectory estimates over that which can be obtained separately from either spacecraft operating independently.


MSTI-3 is the third, and most advanced, satellite developed by the MSTI program to demonstrate more sophisticated sensors and data gathering capabilities. MSTI-3 was scheduled to be launched from Edwards AFB aboard a Pegasus Space Launch Vehicle in the summer of 1995, and finally was launched from Edwards AFB aboard a Pegasus on 16 May 1996.

MSTI-3 collects data in the short wave infrared (SWIR) and medium wave infrared (MWIR) bands. MSTI-3 surveys the Earth collecting data to support analysis of ground features, such as terrain and bodies of water, and atmospheric features, such as clouds and aurora. This analysis will determine how the appearance of these features in the infrared varies with season, time of day, and aspect angle. This basic research supports the design of infrared Earth observation satellites. The primary mission of MSTI-3 is to gather extensive MWIR background clutter statistics at sufficient resolution to resolve whether tracking TBMs in the coast phase against a warm earth background is achievable. This information is necessary to proceed with both the SMTS and SBIRS programs. In addition to providing the truth data, the visible imaging spectrometer gatherd environmental data of similar quality to the Land-Remote Sensing Satellite to support environmental and ecological analysis.

Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., manages the MSTI-3 program. The Space Experiments Directorate of the Phillips Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., implements the program through its Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. and Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. offices.

The MSTI-3 satellite has three instruments: an SWIR camera, an MWIR camera, and a visible wedge spectrometer camera. All of the instruments share a single telescope. Each infrared camera has seven filters. The visible wedge spectrometer camera provides comparison data to verify observations made by the infrared cameras.

Phillips Laboratory, Spectrum Astro, Incorporated of Gilbert, Ariz., and Wyle Laboratories of El Segundo, Calif. designed and built the satellite bus. Science Applications International Corporation of San Diego, Calif. designed and built the satellite payload. Phillips Laboratory integrated and tested the bus and payload. The satellite weighs 466 pounds, including fuel.

Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., launched MSTI-3 on the air-launched Pegasus booster. After flying from Vandenberg to a predetermined launch point approximately 60 miles west of Morro Bay, California, a standard Pegasus launch vehicle was released from the company's L-1011 carrier aircraft at an altitude of 38,000 feet, dropped horizontally for five seconds, and ignited. Approximately 8 minutes later, the rocket deployed the MSTI-3 satellite into its proper 361 by 296 kilometer orbit, inclined at 97 degrees. The MSTI-3 spacecraft performed several orbit transfer maneuvers over the next several days to reach a final circular orbit of 425 kilometers.

Detachment 2, Space and Missile Systems Center, Onizuka Air Force Station, CA controls MSTI-3 through the Air Force Satellite Control Network. Anser Corporation of Arlington, Va., performs mission planning and data processing at their Alexandria, Va. facility. They also operate a downlink site near Fairbanks, Alaska to receive the large amount of data produced by MSTI-3.


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Page last modified: 21-07-2011 13:05:02 ZULU