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Midcourse Sensor Experiment

msx logo MSX represents the first system demonstration in space of technology to identify and track ballistic missiles during their midcourse flight phase. The Sensor Technology Directorate of BMDO has overall responsibility of MSX. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) serves as systems engineer and technical advisor. JHU/APL developed, integrated, tested, launched and is operating the MSX spacecraft and several of its primary sensors. The MSX sensors are the first hyperspectral imagers flown in space and provide essential capabilities in identifying global change gases, including ozone and carbon dioxide, with capabilities heretofore unavailable in any currently flying or planned systems.

At 8:27 AM EST on 24 April 1996 the Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX) spacecraft was launched by a Delta rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA into a nominal circular orbit with an altitude of 908 km and an inclination of 99.6 degrees. The spacecraft separated from the booster at approximately 9:26 AM in the proper attitude, solar panels were extended, and full solar power was attained. The spacecraft was stable at the proper attitude and all spacecraft systems, including the tape recorder, operated normally.

Insertion altitude is approximately 900km, in a high-inclination, circular, near-sun synchronous orbit. Mission design lifetime is 4 years, with the SPIRIT III infrared telescope limited by coolant supply to 18-20 months of operation. Approximately 50% of MSX's weight and power is allocated to instrument use. During its primary mission, or "cryogen" phase, MSX is designed to gather data on backgrounds and to detect and track test-ICBMs launched from the Western Test Range(WTR) and targeted at the Kwajalein Missile Range in the Pacific. Other targets include IRBMs launched from Barking Sands in Hawaii, satellites, and objects deployed from MSX itself. The "post-cryogen" phase will focus on the celestial and terrestrial backgrounds, surveillance demonstrations, and contamination and environmental research.

Designers of future operational space and ground-based surveillance and tracking systems require simultaneous, wideband optical data on midcourse missile flight, the trajectory phase between burnout and rentry. The precision MSX platform will collect that data over a wide-wavelength range during its long-duration mission, building on previous short-term SDI tests. MSX experiments provided critical first-time observations of missile target signatures against Earth-limb, auroral, and celestial cluttered backgrounds.

The MSX satellite was five meters long and weighed 2,700 kg. It was inserted into a 900 km, polar, near-Sun synchronous orbit on a Delta II vehicle. The infrared sensors operated at 11 to 12 degrees Kelvin by employing a solid hydrogen cryostat. The IR instruments spanned the range 4.2 - 26 microns. The focal plane arrays included five radiometer bands with a beam-size 35 times smaller than IRAS, resulting in images with excellent spatial resolution. The cryogen phase of the mission ended on 26 February 1997. Over 200 Giga Bytes of data on Celestial Backgrounds were obtained during the ten month cryogen phase of the mission.

MSX represents the first system demonstration in space of technology to identify and track ballistic missiles during their midcourse flight phase. The Sensor Technology Directorate of BMDO has overall responsibility of MSX. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) serves as systems engineer and technical advisor. JHU/APL developed, integrated, tested, launched and is operating the MSX spacecraft and several of its primary sensors. It is noted that the MSX sensors are the first hyperspectral imagers flown in space and provide essential capabilities in identifying global change gases, including ozone and carbon dioxide, with capabilities heretofore unavailable in any currently flying or planned systems.

The Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX) observatory was a Ballistic Missile Defense Organization project which offered major benefits for both the defense and civilian sectors. With a solid heritage in the successful Delta series, MSX represented the first system demonstration in space of technology to track ballistic missiles during the midcourse flight phase. The spacecraft features an advanced multispectral image capability to gather data on test targets and space background phenomena. MSX will aid future spacecraft design by monitoring on-orbit contamination of optical instruments. In addition, its investigation of the composition of Earth's atmosphere promises increased understanding of the environment.

During its primary mission, or "cryogen" phase, MSX was designed to gather data on backgrounds and to detect and track test-ICBMs launched from the Western Test Range(WTR) and targeted at the Kwajalein Missile Range in the Pacific. Other targets include IRBMs launched from Barking Sands in Hawaii, satellites, and objects deployed from MSX itself. The "post-cryogen" phase focused on the celestial and terrestrial backgrounds, surveillance demonstrations, contamination research and environmental research.

Space-Based Visible (SBV)

A principal sensor on board the satellite is the Space-Based Visible (SBV) sensor, a visible-band electro-optical camera designed at Lincoln Laboratory. The program completed three years of Contributing Sensor operations under the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program. The FY1998 Space-Based Space Surveillance Operations (SBSSO) ACTD demonstrated that a space based sensor can be integrated into the space surveillance system and greatly enhance the performance of that system. The SBSSO utilizes the space based visible (SBV) sensor on the Ballistic Missile Defense Office (BMDO) Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX) program spacecraft. SBSSO has found over 80 lost satellites to date and has improved the performance of the space surveillance system by over 20% for geostationary satellites. The system operation was extended into low altitude surveillance domains in Fiscal Year 2000. U.S. Space Command is the operational sponsor.

Space Command leadership realized the potential of the space surveillance capabilities inherent with the Space Based Visible sensor and assumed ownership from BMDO 02 October 2000. The SBV transitioned to an operational sensor under Space Command sponsorship. Air Force Space Command celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Midcourse Space Experiment satellite 24 April 2006 at affiliated locations around the nation. The organizations that participated in the celebration were those engaged in the delivery and operation of the satellite and include AFSPC, the MDA, the Applied Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins University who built the spacecraft and some of the intstuments on it, the primary sensor builder at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory and the Utah State University Space Dynamics Laboratory.

The Midcourse Space Experiment, operated by 1st SOPS, has been a strategic asset, identifying space objects and feeding that information back to the Joint Space Operations Center. The MSX is the only satellite that can "see space from space," enabling the command to track and catalog objects in space to provide U.S. Strategic Command with increased space situation awareness. The satellite has tracked more than 4,800 objects in the decade since its initial launch.

In early 2008 the Navy destroyed the satellite known as USA 193. The 1st SOPS Weapons and Tactics Flight got approval from the Joint Space Operations Center to track the satellite with MSX's onboard optical telescope. MSX was able to observe the satellite and measure its tumble rate so that the Joint Forces Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense could effectively target its fuel tank.


MSX Instrument Section (92K)

MSX in Payload Processing Facility (65K)

MSX with APL Management Team (60K)

MSX in Launch Fairing (104K)

MSX on Delta II Booster (65K)

MSX Launch from Vandenburg (38K)

MSX Midcourse Space Experiment The Midcourse Space Experiment addresses many Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) systems issues concerned with surveillance, acquisition, tracking, and target discrimination using infrared, visible, and ultraviolet passive sensors. The Sensor Technology Directorate (DTS) of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) has overall responsibility for MSX. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) serves as the system engineer and technical advisor.

Midcourse Space Experiment Data Management Home Page MRC Geophysics and Information Technology Sector, Nashua NH

Midcourse Space Experiment Geophysics Directorate - The Phillips Laboratory/Geophysics Directorate at Hanscom AFB, MA, plays two major roles in the Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX), a Ballistic Missile Defense Office (BMDO) satellite launched on 24 April 1996. The first role is management of the MSX Science Data System. The second role is its major part in the satellite's science mission.

Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX) Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Space Science Division (SSD) Backgrounds Data Center (BDC). The Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX) observatory is a Ballistic Missile Defense Organization project represents the first system demonstration of technology in space to identify and track ballistic missiles during their midcourse flight phase. The spacecraft features an advanced multispectral image capability to gather data on test targets and space background phenomena. The primary archives for MSX data will be at the Naval Research Laboratory.




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