What Can 24 Satellites Do for U.S. Missile Defense?

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Despite some missile defense advocates’ claims that 24 satellites could form the basis of a boost-phase space-based missile interceptor (SBI) system, many physicists do not agree.1 A better question is how could a satellite constellation of this size best
contribute to U.S. missile defense?

  • A 24-satellite constellation is too small for boost-phase missile defense. Hundreds or thousands of satellites would be
    needed to provide continuous coverage of even a small threat region like North Korea.
  • A similar constellation could work for limited midcourse-phase missile defense, but not all threat regions could
    be covered by the same architecture and midcourse intercepts are difficult, requiring detailed tracking and target
    discrimination data to avoid being fooled by decoys.
  • A constellation of this size would work, however, for space-based sensor (SBS) systems, which could observe missiles
    during their midcourse phase as long as they can maintain line-of-sight contact.

Read the full article at CSIS.org or download the PDF below.

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