Space Wars?

On Wednesday, February 14 at 5:30 p.m. ET, Falcon 9 launched the USSF-124 mission to low-Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

MDA, SDA Announce Upcoming Launch of the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor and Tranche 0 Satellites

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Space Development Agency (SDA) announce the upcoming launch of six satellites into low-Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. Today’s planned launch will include two satellites for MDA’s Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) and the final four SDA Tranche 0 (T0) Tracking Layer satellites of its Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA). As part of the National Security Space Launch program, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will deliver the satellites to orbit. “This launch represents a pivotal time for MDA as we enter a new phase of missile warning, tracking and defense,” said Lt. Gen. Heath Collins, director of MDA. “These HBTSS satellites are an essential step forward in our efforts to stay ahead of our adversaries.”

MDA, the U.S. Space Force and SDA are collaborating to develop HBTSS as a space sensor prototype demonstration providing fire control quality data required to defeat advanced missile threats. Ultimately, this data is critical to enabling engagement by missile defense weapons, including engagement of hypersonic glide-phase weapons. This “birth-to-death” tracking by HBTSS will make it possible to maintain custody of missile threats from launch through intercept regardless of location. “Launching our Tracking satellites into the same orbit with the MDA HBTSS satellites is a win for both agencies,” said Derek Tournear, director of SDA. “We’ll be able to look at test targets from the same orbit at the same time, so that we can see how the two sensors work together. In Tranche 1, SDA will fly both sensor types as an operational system – medium-field-of-view demonstrating fire control, based on HBTSS design, and wide-field-of-view doing warning and tracking, based on T0 tracking design.”

Operationally, the missile defense capability, developed through MDA’s HBTSS demonstration program, will inform SDA’s PWSA and will detect hypersonic, ballistic, and other advanced threats earlier than terrestrial radars, providing hypersonic threat tracking data for hand off through linked missile defense weapons. SDA will build upon the fire-control capability successes learned from HBTSS and proliferate those fully developed capabilities in the spiral approach to future tranches.

SDA, part of the U.S. Space Force, previously deployed 23 Tranche 0 satellites on-orbit in 2023, including Transport and Tracking Layer satellites, from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. The four Tracking Layer satellites that will launch with MDA’s HBTSS were delivered by L3Harris Technologies and represent the final satellites in the Tranche 0 program bringing the on-orbit constellation to 27.

Comment: This is what we are up to in space. This and whatever our X-37B space place is doing up there. And that’s just what USSPACECOM and Space Force is telling us. 

But the big news today is the announcement of some kind of national security threat involving a Russian space capability. Rumors are flying. Most center on a nuclear weapon in space likely an anti-satellite weapon. Some are clamoring for Biden to immediately declassify and release everything known about this capability. Others are telling us this is something we are on top of and is not an immediate threat. Whatever is going on, it is serious enough for the White house NSA, Jake Sullivan, to set up a personal briefing to the House members of the Gang of Eight tomorrow. I’m sure we’ll soon learn more as well as being subjected to some wild-assed rumors and conspiracy theories in the days ahead. But I’m pretty sure USSPACECOM and Space Force, among others, are on top of this. 

My concern is that China is probably well ahead of whatever Russia is doing. Lord knows what their space plane is doing up there.


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17 Responses to Space Wars?

  1. ked says:

    my take is that this “leak” is performance art by attention seeking pols. maybe trying to “do good”, or deflecting attention, or? could be an idiot (pol Just-Landed-on-Planet) who sat in on a closed briefing & went non-linear … lotsa that going around in MAGA / GQP space these days.
    btw, the AFA Warfare Conf in Aurora CO just finished yesterday … “just a coincidence”.
    b&btw, I recall reading about nuclear weapons systems in space in dad’s AF Mag in the ’60s. one concept was for EM blast to knock out functions of incoming ICBMs… no precision needed, just a adequate numbers & volume (bonus: it’s in space, so light show but no effects on Earth – promise!). I saw a chart the other day (on War Zone, I think) that described the space nuke systems by categories – from my pov, nothing new.
    it’s a shame we have such dim & shallow pols… on the other hand, I suppose it’s easier for industry & experts in think tanks / academia to game ’em… until it really matters.

  2. babelthuap says:

    If it’s breaking out on legacy media and social media I guarantee it’s not a threat. Nuclear devices have been launched in space a long time.

  3. Christian J Chuba says:

    We weaponize space in the name of self-defense. We are the perpetual victims.

    Trump announced the creation of ‘space force’ in order to dominate space (his words). China is behind Russia in space technology, especially rocketry. China has some cool electronics but is not as advanced as Russia.

    Russia and China have proposed treaties to ban space based weapons but we have rejected it. We rejected it because we believe we can win. We create the problems that will bankrupt us trying to solve.

    I’ll try to restrain from posting because it is pointless to keep repeating myself. We are power addicted to power. We will squander our resources trying to maintain dominance rather than live in peace. It will take a long time for this to happen and it will be agonizing for all. Sorry for my bitterness but I still watch FOX news and cannot stomach the interviews they give to govt officials that reinforce my views.

    • TTG says:

      “Russia and China have proposed treaties to ban space based weapons but we have rejected it.”

      Where did you get that idea? There’s a long standing treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons in space.

      “The 1967 Outer Space Treaty bans the stationing of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in outer space, prohibits military activities on celestial bodies, and details legally binding rules governing the peaceful exploration and use of space. The treaty entered into force Oct. 10, 1967, and has 110 states-parties, with another 89 countries that have signed it but have not yet completed ratification.”
      “The United States and Soviet Union submitted separate draft outer space treaties to the UN General Assembly in June 1966. A mutually agreed treaty text was worked out over the next six months, and the UN General Assembly gave its approval of the treaty on December 19, 1966. The treaty opened for signature in Washington, Moscow, and London on January 27, 1967 and entered into force October 10, 1967.”

      Perhaps you’re referring to subsequent attempts to expand that treaty. The US voted against several resolutions of the PAROS treaty over the years. While that was going on India, Russia and the US tested anti-satellite technologies. Biden unilaterally prohibited further US anti-satellite testing in 2020.

      • fredw says:

        “Biden unilaterally prohibited further US anti-satellite testing in 2020.”
        Biden was not president in 2020.

        • TTG says:


          You’re right. I thought I might have gotten a bad flareup of TDS, but I got the date wrong. The unilateral ban was announced in April 2022 after Russia’s November 2021 testing of a ground based ASAT missile.

      • Christian J Chuba says:

        The 1967 treaty only covers WMD’s such as nuclear weapons. It does not cover anti-satellite weapons.

        There was a story that suggested that Russia was developing a nuclear powered anti-satellite weapon that would power either an energy beam or laser. That actually sounds plausible to me as Russia has already miniaturized nuclear reactors to power a cruise missile. This is in their wheelhouse.

        A rational response would be to approach them regarding a more comprehensive space treaty instead of fueling hysteria. If that fails, fine but that should the first step.

  4. jim.. says:

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    when the Hell Did Pac Man Ate up the whole World..and the Dark
    Side Built Real Death Stars…and All Charles Heston Movies Turned
    in to Reality…Exodus…to Omega Man…That Moment The Druggers Win..
    All Cyber Techno..Tricks and BRICs..++++++ To Form a New Species
    The BEAST,,, of Babylon…No Turning Back…Drum Roll. Crescendo
    Waiting…Waiting..For The Grand Torino..The Cigar..The Honco Poncho..
    Eastwood is Back….My Chest Swells With Pride…I Knew He Would..
    Im a Believer..

  5. leith says:

    That MDA HBTSS satellite launch is a good thing. It gives us the ability to track hypersonic glide vehicles such as China’s WU14/DF-ZF and Putin’s Avanguard and hand them off to targeting assets. It could also track Iran’s Fattah hypersonic ballistic missile and Putin’s other hypersonics like the Zirkon.

    Regarding Putin’s launch of a possible nuclear ASAT satellite I’m with Ked and Babelthuap. It’s not a big deal IMHO. I do wonder what kind of orbit it is in though. If it is a LEO orbit we can easily neuter it if needed.

    I’m more curious about our just announced cyber attack on the Iranian MV Behshad spy ship a week ago. That was about the time she skedaddled for the anchorage in Djibouthi’s Gulf of Tadjoura near the Chinese Naval Base. Did she flee to that anchorage after we conducted that attack, or before? Was our cyber responsible for the Houthi’s attack on the MV Star Iris carrying corn to Iran’s port of Bandar Khomeini a few days ago? That would have been retributive justice, or what my Grandma used to say “they got their just desserts”. But the Houthis blew it and the Star Iris only suffered minor damage.

  6. Keith Harbaugh says:

    If any of you are interested in following what is going on with the UAP situation,
    this 26 minute November 2023 talk from Christopher Mellon
    should be of interest.
    His subject: “The Potential Consequences of Disclosure”.
    Note the implicit assumption in that title.

  7. mcohen says:

    I think an American naval base on the southern Yemeni coast is a wonderful idea along with resorts and hotels,inland safari’s etc

    • TTG says:


      I think that’s just begging for more problems. We already have Camp Lemonnier in that area just a short stroll from the PLAN base. Besides, coastal resorts and hotels is the Saudi dream for her Red Sea coast. That’s one of the reasons for backing off of her Yemeni adventure, in addition to getting her ass kicked by the Houthis.

  8. d74 says:

    Off topic.

    Things are heating up between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
    Direct confrontation on the border, a few deaths.
    More serious: the Azeri chief vizier ruled out the possibility of good offices by a third party. He wants his war. It may be some time before the ball gets rolling; he’s got it in spades, not Armenia.
    What will Nikol do?

    Amusing detail: France has sent some men (100, 200?) and armed vehicles to Armenia. The Azeri chief vizier has cried out that France wants war. The French bashing was short but intense.
    We did try a few tales questioning the chief vizier’s democratic sense, but it all came to nothing.

    Nikol and our minimax are stuck. Russia won’t intervene, scalded as it is by a long-standing Russian-phobic Nikol. Russia and the chief vizier are negotiating to withdraw the Russian white helmets in the area, fulfilling an old UN mission. No witnesses is better. France has no means. None, especially at such a distance. And above all, Europe is firmly behind Azeri, helped by the smell of oil. Israel too, as Azerbaijan is a good customer and its back door to Iran.
    Precisely, Iran. What will it do? Will it honor its repeated declaration that it will not take a border change in the Caucasus?

    What kind of game is the USA playing? Sacrificing an emotional pawn against a far more important adversary, Russia?

  9. Christian J Chuba says:

    Here is an article by a Neocon in MARCH 31, 2021 scoffing the Russia and China’s proposal to ban space based, anti-satellite weapons.

    His argument, once you bet passed the snark, is that Russia and China already have ground based anti-satellite weapons so this gives them an advantage (and makes them hypocrites). I don’t recall seeing the U.S. many any such proposal except for Biden’s executive order but that can be reversed in a heart beat.

    The alleged, and non-deployed Russian weapon would not violate the current space treaty as it uses a nuclear reactor to power an energy weapon. It cannot seriously be called a WMD. I’d like to see a ban on space based weapons altogether but not ground based systems. It’s hard for me to argue that a country has no right to target a satellite that flies over their country in a time of war. Yes it would create a mess and I would hate to see them used but still it would be a ground based system targeting objects above their own air space.

    Who knows, maybe Russia is developing such a thing to get our attention.

    • TTG says:

      Christian J Chuba,

      Seems the great threat in space is more theoretical than real. Russia is researching and probably developing the technology for such ASAT weapons by don’t appear to have decided to deploy anything. I’m sure we’re researching some crazy shit, too. We did a live ASAT test in 2008 using a modified Aegis system and an SM-3 missile so we also have the capability. Biden just chose not to do any further live testing.

  10. Keith Harbaugh says:

    The ISS will eventually deorbit and fall to earth.
    But where and under whose control?
    Well, we’re having such good relations with the Russians, so that shouldn’t be a problem, right?
    What could go wrong?

    For a description of the situation, and lots on the deorbiting of Skylab in 1979, see

    “Skylab’s 1979 Crash Provides a Glimpse at the International Space Station’s Future”

    “in the case of the ISS, Russia owns the segments that actually steer the space station, including
    “all of the propulsion … for station [altitude] reboost, attitude control, debris avoidance maneuvers and eventual de-orbit operations,”
    according to NASA.”

    Yeah, all you Russiaphobes.
    Let’s see how much the U.S. can do to make Russia an enemy.
    Again, what could go wrong.

    I, for one, think we should stop arguing with Russia so much.
    The results aren’t going to be good.

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