Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Low

The Air Force began developing a new satellite system, called Space-Based Infrared System-low (SBIRS)-low, to expand DOD's current infrared satellite capabilities for supporting ballistic missile defense. The ability to detect missile launches, track missiles throughout their flights, and counter these threats is essential to ballistic missile defense. The primary mission of SBIRS-low is to detect launches and track missile flights.

When the acquisition sensor detects the heat from a missile's booster motor, it must determine and relay highly accurate information on the missile's position to the tracking sensor. The tracking sensor must then point to the proper location in space, find the missile, and begin tracking the missile. Key technologies include the scanning infrared sensor, which is to acquire ballistic missiles in the early stages of flight. The tracking infrared sensor, is to track missiles, warheads, and other objects such as debris and decoys during the middle and later stages of flight. The fore optics cryocooler and the tracking infrared sensor cryocooler, are needed to cool the tracking sensor optics and other sensor components to enable the sensor to detect missile objects in space. Satellite communications crosslinks, enable satellites to communicate with each other.

The Department of Defense's (DOD) original 1995 schedule for Space-Based Infrared System-low (SBIRS)-low called for (1) a launch of a two-satellite flight demonstration - both satellites on one launch vehicle - in the first quarter of fiscal year 1999; (2) a deployment decision in fiscal year 2000 after key technologies and operating concepts were validated by the demonstration satellites; and (3) launches of SBIRS-low satellites-3 satellites per launch vehicle-beginning in fiscal year 2006.

DOD did not implement the original schedule because Congress required in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996 that DOD establish a program baseline to include a first launch of SBIRS-low satellites in fiscal year 2002.1 The Defense Science Board, at DOD's request, assessed the viability of accelerating the first launch from fiscal year 2006 to fiscal year 2002 and found it would not be viable. However, in December 1996, DOD committed to accelerating the first launch of SBIRS-low satellites to fiscal year 2004.

On 16 August 1999, TRW Space and Electronics Group, Redondo Beach, Calif., and Spectrum Astro, Inc., Gilbert, Ariz., were each awarded a $275,000,000 firm-fixed-price contract to provide for the Program Definition and Risk reduction phase of the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Low Component. This phase was intended to result in preliminary system designs which can be used to develop, manufacture, deliver, operate, and sustain the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) component of the SBIRS System-of-Systems (SoS) architecture and perform extensive risk reduction and ground demonstration efforts. The SBIRS mission is to develop, deploy, and sustain space-based surveillance systems for missile warning, missile defense, battlespace characterization, and technical intelligence. Expected contract completion date was October 2002.

The SBIRS Low program was to be developed as part of the SBIRS SoS architecture. The acquisition of this architecture is proceeding in four increments as is described in the SBIRS Single Acquisition and Management Plan (SAMP). Increment 1 consists of the consolidation of the Defense Support Program (DSP), Attack Launch Early Report to Theater (ALERT), and Joint Tactical Ground Station (JTAGS) ground operations. Increment 2 refers to the actual deployment of the SBIRS High Block I. Increment 3 will add the SBIRS Low capabilities to the SoS architecture. Full constellation deployment was expected by FY08. In Increment 4, the SBIRS High/Low system will be updated as driven by the evolving environment to provide best value to the government.

The baseline SBIRS architecture includes satellites in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO), Low Earth Orbit (LEO), and sensors hosted on satellites in Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO). Ground assets include: a Continental United States (CONUS)-based Mission Control Station (MCS), a backup MCS (MCSB), a survivable MCS (SMCS), overseas Relay Ground Stations (RGSs), a survivable RGS (SRGS) and Multi-Mission Mobile Processors (M3Ps) with associated infrastructure; and training, launch and support infrastructures. The SBIRS Low Component for Increment 3 provides the LEO satellite constellation for precision midcourse tracking capability critical for effective Ballistic Missile Defense. SBIRS Low Component for Increment 3 will also improve capabilities for missile warning, technical intelligence, and battlespace characterization by complementing the performance of SBIRS Increment 2. The SBIRS Low Component for Increment 3 includes provisions to incorporate associated ground elements to provide any unique command, control, data processing, and external interface capability to the entire SBIRS ground segment. The JSC has conducted a risk assessment on SBIRS Low uplink and downlink frequencies for use of 20/44 GHz frequency bands at four grounds station locations.

The SBIRS System of Systems (SoS) contractor would have total system performance responsibility (TSPR) for SBIRS Increment 3 performance against ORD requirements. The SBIR High contractor has total responsibility for the SBIRS high system specification for Increment 1 and 2. The SBIRS Low contractor has total responsibility for low system specification for Increment 3. Under Contract Number F04701-95-C-0017, the SBIRS High EMD contract, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space Company (LMMS) has certain System of Systems (SoS) responsibilities which have some impact on the SBIRS Low Component competition, and will have access to certain proprietary data provided by the SBIRS Low Component competitors. As a part of the SBIRS High EMD contract, the Government and LMMS have agreed to a clause entitled "Avoidance of Organizational Conflict of Interest (OCI) Regarding the SBIRS Low Component Program Competition" (hereinafter the SBIRS High clause). Among other things in the clause, LMMS has agreed to provide all SBIRS Low Component competitors equal access to certain data, as defined in the SBIRS High clause and its implementing plan, and to not use any proprietary data except as permitted in the SBIRS High clause.

In February 1999, the Air Force established a new acquisition schedule for the SBIRS-low program, which includes a program definition and risk reduction phase, a concurrent development and production phase, and a 1-year on-orbit test with the first six SBIRS-low satellites produced (to be launched with two launches-three satellites per launch). The decision to enter the engineering and manufacturing development phase and production phases was to be made in the third quarter of fiscal year 2002. The 1-year on-orbit test, which was intended to test and finalize the design of the satellites, will not be completed until January 2008, more than 5 years after development and production was to start.

The primary purpose of SBIRS-low is to support both national and theater missile defense by tracking ballistic missiles and discriminating between the warheads and other objects, such as decoys, that separate from the missile bodies throughout the middle portion of their flights. Its deployment schedule is tied to fiscal year 2010, the date when these capabilities were needed by the National Missile Defense System.

In a July 1999 memorandum to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology, DOD's Director of Operational Test and Evaluation expressed concern that the new (current) schedule eliminated critical on-orbit experiments that were to be conducted under the flight demonstration. The Director stated that while the restructured program schedule includes ground demonstrations that were previously lacking from the SBIRS-low program, considering the many technical challenges and high risk in the program, DOD must seek every opportunity to obtain early on-orbit experience.

The SBIRS Low Flight Development System (FDS) preceded the SBIRS Low Preliminary Development and Risk Reduction (PDRR) competition. The FDS phase, which lasted from 1996 to 1999, called for the development of two prototype satellites. The FDS spacecraft buses developed by Northrop Grumman Space Technology (formerly TRW Space & Electronics) and the FDS infrared sensor payloads developed by Raytheon are the basis for Flights 1 and 2 of Cycle 1 of the current STSS R&D phase.

Northrop Grumman Space Technology (formerly TRW Space & Electronics) was one of two teams awarded a contract in 1999 to lead the Preliminary Development and Risk Reduction (PDRR) phase. The objective of the PDRR program was to perform a series of ground demonstrations that addressed specific risks in designing the full operational constellation. Phase I, Program Definition and Risk Reduction, of the acquisition development cycle is sometimes referred to as the Demonstration and Validation phase. Two contractor teams were producing "proof of concept" demonstration satellites, scheduled to be launched in FY 1999.

The first of these two designs was called the Flight Demonstration System (FDS) and was to consist of two satellites launched on a Delta II 7420 booster. The prime contractor for the FDS was TRW, Inc. with Raytheon Systems producing the infrared payload.

The second of the two designs was called the Low Altitude Demonstration System (LADS) and was to consist of one satellite launched from a Lockheed Martin Launch Vehicle and supplemented by a ground demonstration payload. The prime contractor for the LADS effort was Boeing North American with Lockheed Martin providing the spacecraft bus and launch vehicle.

Once on orbit, these two systems were to perform tests and experiments to validate the proof of concept for each design and provide data necessary to support a deployment decision milestone in the year 2000.

After working closely with the U.S. Air Force for eight months, the TRW/Raytheon Space-Based Infrared System Low (SBIRS Low) team completed the first milestone in the program definition risk reduction (PDRR) contract for the low-Earth orbiting component of the next-generation early missile warning system in May 18, 2000. This first milestone, known as Requirements Review 1 (RR1), provided a basis for defining Ballistic Missile Defense support requirements as well as key performance parameters for technical intelligence. In conducting this task, the TRW/Raytheon team provided the Air Force with cost, performance and system architecture options to arrive at an optimal balance between mission utility and cost. The TRW/Raytheon team completed the program's second major milestone, the Inherent Capabilities Assessment (ICA), in July 2000. At that time, initial satellite launch was targeted for 2006. In October 2000 the TRW/Raytheon team reached a major milestone in the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Low program with the completion of the System Requirements Review (SRR), the third in a series of three requirements reviews. The reviews represent significant accomplishments in the team's 38-month Program Definition and Risk Reduction (PDRR) contract. In April 2001 the TRW/Raytheon Space Based Infrared System Low (SBIRS Low) team progressed its system design effort with the successful completion of the second of three major program milestones, the System Design Review (SDR).

In October 2000, the Congress directed the Air Force to transfer the program to the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (now MDA). The Senate Committee on Armed Services directed a study of alternatives to SBIRS-low as part of the fiscal year 2002 budget authorization process. These alternatives were to include ground-, sea-, and air-based sensors such as radar systems. The Committee directed that the report contain (1) an analysis of essential national missile defense requirements that SBIRS-low would fulfill and what alternative systems could also fulfill such requirements; (2) a quantitative assessment of national missile defense system performance without SBIRS-low or any alternative system; (3) a quantitative assessment of the national missile defense system performance with SBIRS-low and with each alternative system; (4) yearly cost estimates for SBIRS-low and of each alternative system beginning with fiscal year 2002, including all previous fiscal years and all fiscal years through deployment of a fully operational system; (5) a risk assessment of SBIRS-low and of each alternative system; and (6) a qualitative assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of SBIRS-low and each alternative system.

As of early 2001 DOD planned to begin launching SBIRS-low satellites in fiscal year 2006 and estimated the life-cycle cost through fiscal year 2022 to be $11.8 billion. DOD defines life-cycle cost as all costs relating to research, development, production, deployment, operations, and support for a system. The SBIRS-low program was expected to consist of about 24 satellites in low earth orbit, but it could consist of more or less satellites, depending on the results of contractor cost and performance studies. While the system is to consist of a constellation of about 24 satellites, the program provides for the production of an additional 34 satellites to maintain this constellation size through fiscal year 2022.

As of early 2001 satellite development and production were scheduled to occur concurrently and the results of a 1-year flight test that is to test and finalize the design of the satellites will not be available until more than 5 years after the program enters production. The software required for SBIRS-low to perform all its missions is to be developed concurrent with the deployment of the satellites and is not to be completed until more than 3 years after the first SBIRS-low satellites are to be launched.

In April 2002, the Missile Defense Agency [MDA] issued an Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) ending the SBIRS Low Preliminary Development and Risk Reduction (PDRR) competition and naming Northrop Grumman Space Technology (formerly TRW Space & Electronics) as prime contractor for a team composed of the major contractors involved in the SBIRS Low PDRR effort. The ADM redefined SBIRS Low as the space-based sensor research and development (R&D) element of MDA's integrated BMDS and directed the implementation of a capability-based approach and Block build strategy focusing available assets on participation in the BMDS test bed as early as 2006/2007.

In the new combined team approach, TRW subcontractor Spectrum Astro will play a key role developing spacecraft while Raytheon and Northrop Grumman will develop sensor payloads under competitive subcontracts to TRW. Prior to restructuring, TRW, with Raytheon as a principal team member, and Spectrum Astro, with Northrop Grumman, led competing teams to define requirements and complete conceptual designs for an operational SBIRS Low system. Program plans called for launch of the first SBIRS Low satellites (Block 06) in 2006-2007, to be followed by launches of upgraded satellites in subsequent blocks.

In August 2002 TRW received an $868 million cost-plus award fee contract from the Department of Defense (DoD) Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to begin development of the Space-Based Infrared System Low (SBIRS Low) missile defense system element. In December 2002, SBIRS Low Research & Development (SBIRS Low R&D) was renamed Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS).

Parallel to the Phase I effort, preliminary effort was underway to prepare for Phase II, Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD), that was to begin in 2001. The Government intended to award the EMD phase contract through a rolling downselect procedure, but reserved the right to make no EMD contract award at all. The rolling downselect was to be culminated by a Call For Improvements (CFI) approximately 20 months after PD contract award. CFI responses were required approximately 22 months after PD contract award. The CFI would solicit competitive proposals for EMD. Unrealistically low proposed prices, initially or subsequently, may be grounds for eliminating a proposal from competition either on the basis that the offeror does not understand the requirement or the offeror has made an unrealistic proposal. After evaluating these proposals, the Government planned to select the EMD contractor and award two EMD contracts: a cost plus award fee contract for the RDT&E effort and a fixed price-type contract for the Production effort. The EMD phase was to utilize data obtained from the Phase I demonstration systems and consist of a full and open competition between contractors that will culminate in early 2001 with the selection of a single contractor to develop the fully operational SBIRS Low system with a projected first launch in late 2004.

DOD eventually restructured the SBIRS-low program because of the cost and scheduling problems, and it put the equipment it had partially built into storage. By mid-2002 the restructured SBIRS Low program placed TRW in the lead of an industry team with Spectrum Astro and Northrop Grumman and Raytheon as subcontractors. Under the plan, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon would continue to compete to provide the SBIRS Low payloads as the program progresses. Proponency for the SBIRS Low program was passed to the Missile Defense Agency in FY 02. The program was renamed as the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) and redefined in terms of a capabilities based acquisition.


Join the mailing list

Page last modified: 21-07-2011 13:05:16 ZULU