Why a Space-Based Missile Interceptor System Is Not Viable

Satellite in space
Photo: Vesa Vauhkonen, Rautalampi, Finland
The United States has plans to develop two new missile defense programs in the space domain: a space-based sensor architecture and a space-based missile intercept layer. Both proposed systems rely on a network of satellites in low Earth orbit to offer full or partial coverage of the Earth’s surface, precisely tracking a missile during its flight in one case, or shooting it down entirely in the other. A space-based sensor system could expand current capabilities for monitoring missile launches and warrants further study. The deployment of a space-based missile intercept layer, however, would require launching hundreds or thousands of weapons into space – an expensive, inefficient, and provocative idea. The technical discussion surrounding space-based interceptors should be decoupled from that of space-based sensors – a much more plausible proposal. Despite decades of support from influential policymakers, the resources required to deploy space-based interceptors would be better spent on other layers of US missile defense.

Read the full article in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

To learn more about what a constellation of space-based missile defense layer might look like, explore the CSIS Aerospace Security Data Repository below, or click here

Interactive graphic displaying missile defense interceptor coverage. Users can change the size of the constellation and the inclination of satellites.

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