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Precision Tracking Space System

The objective of Precision Tracking Space System (PTSS) was to deliver an operational space-based system to address the post-boost midcourse missile tracking challenge. The PTSS consists of a constellation of satellites and associated ground control and processing equipment that is integrated with the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) elements to support command and control, track generation, fusion, and transfer of data through the entire fire-control loop. PTSS is planned to provide fire-control quality data to Aegis, THAAD, and GMD to support Homeland defense and regional defense.

Space-based sensors provide the most operationally suitable means for global persistent surveillance of ballistic missiles in flight. The Precision Tracking Space System was intended to augment the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) by employing a constellation of infrared sensors to exploit all the advantages of orbital placement in space for precision missile tracking.

The PTSS was a space and ground segment system that would provide persistent sensor coverage of enemy ballistic missiles. The PTSS was designed to be an integrated part of the BMDS: one that received cues from all acquisition sensors and provided outputs to the BMDS battle manager & missile systems.

PTSS was to be a space-borne sensor constellation and ground system that closed the fire control loop with the BMDS shooters, specifically the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense and Ground Based Interceptor weapon systems, by way of the BMDS battle manager. The PTSS also focused on tracking large raids of regional Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles, Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles and Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles from today`s regional threats.

The PTSS satellite program would have provided for warfighter needs by providing persistent tracking, post-boost, ballistic missile object tracking and support for object characterization and discrimination. The PTSS has inherent capability for other missions such as Space Situational Awareness. The agency expected that capability to be exploited by the joint warfighter when the PTSS was not engaged in a missile defense mission.

The Combatant Commands and Services had a need for a persistent ability to provide fire-control quality tracking of a raid of ballistic missiles over their entire trajectory for both homeland and regional defense scenarios, specifically, improve birth-to-death tracking, identification, and targeting, including the capability to detect, track, discriminate and counter large, dense raids, and structured attacks. Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) systems acquire and track the boost and early postboost phases of a missile`s trajectory, but the PTSS is required to continue to track ballistic missiles through their ascent, apogee, and until they reenter into the earth`s atmosphere.

PTSS leveraged experience gained from STSS test events to demonstrate capability and insight into Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance linkages and hand off to the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense fire control system. Lessons learned from the two Space Tracking & Surveillance System demonstration satellites currently on orbit guided decisions on the development of a fiscally sustainable, continuously available, operational precision track space sensor constellation and ground system.

The program sought to mitigate cost, schedule and performance risk by: 1) simplifying the design by focusing on the BMDS mission, 2) incorporating components and subsystems with high technology readiness levels and on-orbit pedigrees and 3) involving industry and the military services up front & early to inform the design for producibility, operations and sustainment. MDA worked with a team of laboratories and military service representatives from the Air Force and Navy to develop the PTSS concept and provide a system capable of space-based tracking of ballistic missiles and support homeland, regional, and theater missile defense.

MDA sought to ensure early industry involvement by awarding contracts to join the Integrated Systems Engineering Team (ISET) during the developmental satellite article design. In 2011 MDA awarded 6 subcontracts to industry (Ball, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Orbital, and Raytheon) to join the Integrated Systems Engineering Team (ISET) during developmental satellite article design for manufacturability and producibility analyses. These six Industry partners contributed to the national lab development effort to improve the Precision Tracking Space System design for manufacturability and reduce the production risk.

The US Air Force, as lead service for the PTSS, provided operations and sustainment strategies and concepts to ensure the ground and space segments can be easily transferred to a service. The USAF has embedded its personnel in the PTSS hybrid program office to facilitate this function. The US Navy as operator of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense weapon system, provided assured communications and weapon system expertise so that the PTSS can effectively close the fire control loop from space. To the same end, the USN would embed its personnel in the PTSS hybrid program office. Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL), as both the lead performer on the PTSS and design expert for the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense weapon system, shortened the communications chain by leveraging the collocation of its two design teams. JHU/APL allows the government to manage BMDS interface changes effectively throughout the development articles and maintain intellectual property within the government for future competition.

The PTSS provided the effectiveness of a highly available early missile tracking capability from space by developing, launching and operating a pair of developmental satellite articles using an integrated ground control system in FY 2017. The PTSS developmental satellite articles would demonstrate early, precise, real-time tracking of ballistic missiles to close the BMDS fire control loop from space. This capability significantly improves BMDS performance by effectively expanding the threat engagement range of all BMD ships operating in the northern hemisphere. PTSS would leverage the technical expertise of Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, University Affiliated Research Centers, National and DoD.

A national lab team was to develop the PTSS development satellites and ground segment in a nonproprietary environment. That government owned design will foster production competition over the life cycle of the program. The team was comprised of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Department of Energy`s Sandia National Laboratories, Utah State University`s Space Dynamics Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory and the Naval Research Laboratory. The development article effort would define the system performance of the production system. MDA would discourage subcontractors and suppliers on the development program from establishing exclusive teaming arrangements with potential bidders on the production program to maximize competition on the production program source selection. Once system performance is established through test, the Development Articles will by transitioned by the government, with the national laboratory team technical support, to the Air Force as lead service.

PTSS awarded contracts to incorporate industry early in the laboratory-led phase via the PTSS ISET. Industry examined candidate system, subsystem and component designs for manufacturing and producibility and provided feedback to inform the overall design.

The acquisition strategy for the launch of PTSS satellites was to competitively award launch vehicle and launch services contracts. MDA planned to use the Air Force as the contracting entity for PTSS launch vehicles and services. The first two development satellites were compatible with the existing Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) class of launch vehicles and future satellites would be compatible with multiple launch vehicles, including EELV-class and others as they become available in the commercial marketplace.

For production of the constellation, MDA would fully, openly, and competitively award a contract with industry between Preliminary Design Review and Critical Design Review. It is projected that industry participants on the ISET will be among the bidders in the production competition in an acquisition strategy that will mitigate the transition risk to industry.

To take advantage of commercial advances in space-qualified parts and satellite subsystems as well as industry`s own production processes, MDA expected industry to adapt and transition the development satellite design into the production design as well as facilitate testing and on-orbit check out prior to a production decision.

The planned satellite system includes a constellation of nine satellites in orbit at the same time around the earth’s equator. The initial twelve satellites needed for adequate protection were dtermiend to be insufficient.

Funding restrictions in FY11 and FY12 severely curtailed the acquisition approach, development and procurement goals, although the requirements for a space layer in the Ballistic Missile Defense System are still valid and the support still needed. As threats expanded and matured the need for continuously available sensors and faster interceptors supported continued investment in a PTSS development in FY 2013.

The Secretary of Defense decided to propose canceling the PTSS program in November 2012 — prior to the January 2013 NDAA requirement for DOD’s Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) to assess PTSS alternatives. The decision to propose canceling the PTSS program was based on a CAPE review, initiated in 2011, of the acquisition, technical, and operational risks of the PTSS program. Specifically, this review assessed the PTSS cost, schedule, technical design, and acquisition strategy to identify whether risks could challenge the program’s ability to acquire, field, and sustain the system within planned cost and schedule constraints. The review was completed in the fall of 2012 and determined that the PTSS program had significant technical, programmatic, and affordability risks. CAPE determined based on initial analysis in the fall of 2012 that other systems could potentially satisfy many of the PTSS performance objectives.

In April 2013, the Department of Defense (DOD) officially proposed canceling the PTSS program because of concerns with the program’s high-risk acquisition strategy and long-term affordability. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA), signed into law on January 2, 2013, mandated, among other things, that DOD’s Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) conduct an evaluation of PTSS alternatives and report it to the congressional defense committees no later than April 30, 2013.

In the 2014 President’s Budget, the Department of Defense decided to discontinue the PTSS program in FY14 under department-wide fiscal pressure brought on by sequestration. The program documented the final PTSS design on April 17, 2013 at the PTSS Technical Baseline Update, the last design review the program would have. The program office shut its doors on Sept. 30 and its personnel were merged with Space Systems, the program office flying the STSS-D and NFIRE satellites, on Oct. 1, 2013.

Furthermore, budgetary predictions set at $10 billion over twenty years were low, with extra costs running to $24 billion over the same time period.

PTSS Program Milestones

  • Established PTSS Program Office – October 2009.
  • Air Force Service Cell established within the PTSS Hybrid Program Office – August 2010.
  • Awarded Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (JHU/APL) subcontracts with industry for the Manufacturing and Production Readiness Integrated Systems Engineering Team (ISET) – February 2011.
  • Completed PTSS System Requirements Review – March 2011.
  • Navy Service Cell established within the PTSS Hybrid Program Office – May 2012.
  • Entered Technology Development Phase - September 2012.
  • PTSS program discontinued in FY14 President’s Budget - March 2013
  • Data archival begins to document the PTSS program – May 2013
  • PTSS officially discontinued; program office personnel merged with Space Systems – October 2013.

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Page last modified: 29-12-2015 15:15:17 ZULU