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Space-Based Kinetic Kill Vehicle (SBKKV)

The Space-Based Kinetic Kill Vehicle (SBKKV) system was to consist of groups of interceptors housed in orbiting modules with housekeeping and battle functions. The SBKKV element would be an earth-orbiting satellite system combining surveillance and intercept functions on a single spacecraft. The SBKKV would also be placed in orbit using existing space launch vehicles and facilities. Like SBS, an SBKKV would be able to detect, identify, discriminate, and track ballistic missile targets. Upon cue from the system operator, a dormant SBKKV could be activated to release interceptors at a target (ballistic missiles, reentry vehicles, or anti-satellite missiles). The interceptor would destroy a missile by direct impact at high speed. An SBKKV would be able to intercept a missile earlier in its trajectory than a GBI.

The Space-Based Interceptor system was to have been a large, garage-like satellite housing ten individual hit-to-kill interceptors. About three hundred SBKKVs were to orbit the earth; and in case of an attack by Soviet ICBMs, the SBKKV's would launch their interceptors at individual Soviet missiles, destroying a large number of them in their boost phase before they could release their multiple warheads and decoys. SBKKV had two major drawbacks. First, it was large and therefore an easy target for a Soviet anti-satellite weapon (ASAT). Second, it was very expensive.

In 1987 the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) and its proponents (the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force) plan to conduct Demonstration/Validation tests of the SBKKV technology. These tests will demonstrate the ability of the technology to perform the required tasks, and validate a future decision on whether to proceed with Full-Scale Development. Demonstration/Validation tests would be conducted at Eglin Air Force Base, Edwards Air Force Base, U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll, National Test Facility, and contractor facilities. Tests would include analyses, simulations, component/assembly tests, and flight tests.

On 5 August 1987, the Defense Acquisition Board selected three Space Systems Division at Los Angeles Air Force Base programs for demonstration and validation: the Boost Surveillance and Tracking System, which would track enemy missiles in the early phase of their ballistic trajectory; the Space Surveillance and Tracking System, which would track them in the mid-course phase of their ballistic trajectory; and the Space-Based Interceptor, an orbiting, rocket-propelled weapon system that would destroy enemy missiles by impact. These systems were expected to become part of the first phase of a Strategic Defense System. As the overall concept for that system evolved, the three programs were affected in different ways.

On September 17, 1987, the Secretary of Defense approved for demonstration and validation six Phase I elements. By October 1988 the number of SBKKVs planned for deployment was reduced by 51 percent, which reduced the estimated cost of the SBKKV element by almost $19 billion. The reduction in the quantity of SBKKVs also resulted in a $900 million reduction in the cost to launch the satellites. There were also significant changes in the technical characteristics of the SBKKV. Some of these changes include

(1) reducing the size of the SBKKV satellite or carrier vehicle,

(2) deleting the fire control system from the carrier vehicle,

(3) deleting some BM/C3 functions from the carrier vehicle, and

(4) reducing SBKKV's ground-based control network.

In June 1987, SD10 estimated that the SBKKV would cost between $23.4 billion and $69.3 billion (fiscal year 1988 dollars). In October 1988, the Air Force estimated that SBKKV would cost $17.7 billion (fiscal year 1988 dollars). The October 1988 estimate was $51.6 billion, or 74 percent, less than the June 1987 high estimate.

About $18.8 billion, or 36 percent, of the cost reduction was due to a reduction in the quantity of SBKKVs to be produced and deployed in Phase I. About $18.7 billion, or 36 percent, of the cost reduction was due to technical and programmatic changes. The remaining $14.1 billion, or 28 percent, of the reduction was due to differences in cost models used to prepare the two estimates.

Between June 1987 and October 1988, based on the system used to support the high estimate, SD10 reduced the quantity of SBKKV carrier vehicles and interceptors to be included in Phase I by 51 percent. According to SDI0 and the Air Force Space Division, recent technological advances will permit development of a more capable Space-Based Interceptor. As a result, fewer interceptors will be needed to accomplish the military objectives established by the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the Phase I system.

About $18.7 billion of the reduction in the SBKKV element cost estimate can be attributed to technical and program changes. These include (1) reducing the size of the carrier vehicle, (2) deleting the fire control system from the carrier vehicle, (3) planning for one rather than two contractors during full scale development, (4) deleting the BM/C3 function from the SBKKV, (5) reducing SBKKV's ground control network requirements, (6) deleting planned tests in space during the demonstration and validati?n phase, and (7) deleting some planned flight tests during full scale development.

In June 1987 SDI0 estimated that it would cost between $12.7 billion and $16.3 billion (fiscal year 1988 dollars) to launch those Phase I system elements that will be based in space. In October 1988, SD10 estimated launch cost at $8.6 billion (fiscal year 1988 dollars). The October 1988 estimate is $7.7 billion, or 47 percent, less than the June 1987 high estimate. The decrease in the launch cost estimate can be attributed primarily to (1) a reduction in the number of SBKKV satellites to be launched and (2) a change in the kinds of rockets used to launch some satellites. The reduction in the number of SBKKV satellites resulted in a decrease of about $900 million in Phase I launch cost. The remaining $6.8 billion decrease in launch costs can be attributed primarily to changes in the types of rockets to be used to launch some of the Phase I satellites.

The number of SBKKV satellites to be launched based on the high estimate was reduced by more than 50 percent between the June 1987 and the October 1988 estimates. In addition, the size and weight of each SBKKV satellite was reduced. These reductions in quantity and weight resulted in a reduced estimate of the launch capability requirements. About $900 million of the reduction in Phase I launch cost can be attributed to the reduction in the number and size of SBKKVs.

When the June 1987 cost estimate was prepared, SDI0 anticipated that the Advanced Launch System (ALS) to be developed jointly by SDIO, the Air Force, and NASA would be used to launch many of the Phase I satellites. Development of the ALS and associated launch facilities was expected to cost $17.5 billion but the ALS was expected to reduce recurring launch cost by 90 percent from the current $3,000 a pound to about $300 a pound. For the June 1987 high estimate, SD10 assumed that the ALS development and facility costs would be shared equally with NASA and the Air Force.

Development of the ALS, however, did not proceed as SDI0 originally anticipated. When the October 1988 Phase I estimate was prepared, it was apparent that the ALS would not be available in time to be used to launch the Phase I system. SDI0 planned to develop a rocket specifically for use in launching some of the Phase I satellites. Because this rocket will be an adaptation of an existing missile, its development is expected to cost less than the ALS. This change accounts for about $3.2 billion of the reduction in Phase I high estimate launch cost.

A partially successful hover test of a laboratory model of the Space-Based Interceptor (SBKKV) was conducted at the Air Force Astronautics Laboratory, Edwards AFB, California, in November 1988. This pre-prototype interceptor was demonstrated successfully in three series of SBKKV hover tests at the Astronautics Laboratory. The first series tested the interceptor's guidance and propulsion systems. The second series demonstrated the ability of the interceptor's integrated seeker assembly to lock on to a thrusting rocket plume and then shift its aimpoint from the hot, bright plume to the relatively cold, dim body of the rocket. This was a critical and previously unsatisfied requirement for any anti-ballistic-missile weapon system using infrared seekers.

In March of 1989 the Martin Marietta Space Based Interceptor (SABIR) program began the formal implementation of Total Quality Management (TQM). The Space Based Interceptor program was the pilot program for TQM. The goal of the program is to provide quality, cost effective products to customers. The implementation of TQM included use of work groups, training sessions, a newsletter, and brain storming sessions. A good relationship between the USAF and the contractors in order to implement TQM was essential. The use of TQM in the SBKKV program resulted in a potential $10-20 million savings in the SBKKV Flight Experiment and a reduction of $30 million in SBKKV software development.

Although President George H.W. Bush announced a plan to "vigorously pursue" the Strategic Defense Initiative in 1989, change was on the way. Later that year, President Bush commissioned an independent review of strategic requirements for a "new world order." Also in 1989 the first full duration ground test flight of the Space Based Interceptor (SBKKV) was conducted, as well as the first ground test of Space Based Interceptor with integrated seeker.

The resulting Strategic Defense Architecture emphasized boost phase kill technologies and Brilliant Pebbles. In 1990, the SDIO decided to pursue an alternate system based on a weapons concept called Brilliant Pebbles, which would consist of many highly autonomous interceptors floating independently in orbit.

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