U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet
|DEFENSE SUPPORT PROGRAM
Space Command-operated Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites are
a key part of North America's early warning systems. In their 22,000
miles-plus geosynchronous orbits, DSP satellites help protect the
United States and its allies by detecting missile launches, space
launches and nuclear detonations.
satellites use an infrared sensor to detect heat from missile and
booster plumes against the earthís background. In 1995,
technological advancements were made to ground processing systems,
enhancing detection capability of smaller missiles to provide
improved warning of attack by short-range missles against U.S. and
allied forces overseas.
Numerous improvement projects have
enabled DSP to provide accurate, reliable data in the face of
evolving missile threats. On-station sensor reliability has provided
uninterrupted service well past their design lifetime. Recent
technological improvements in sensor design include
above-the-horizon capability for full hemispheric coverage and
improved resolution. Increased on-board signal-processing capability
improves clutter rejection. Enhanced reliability and survivability
improvements were also incorporated. In the 21st century, the
Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) will replace DSP.
program came to life with the first launch of a DSP satellite in the
early 1970s. Since that time, DSP satellites have provided an
uninterrupted space-based early warning capability. The original DSP
satellite weighed 2,000 pounds and had 400 watts of power, 2,000
detectors and a design life of 1.25 years. Throughout the life of
the program, the satellite has undergone numerous improvements to
enhance reliability and capability. The weight grew to 5,250 pounds,
the power to 1,275 watts, the number of detectors increased
three-fold to 6,000 and the design life has been increased to a goal
of five years.
The 21st Space Wing, with headquarters at
Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., has units that operate DSP
satellites and report warning information, via communications links,
to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S.
Space Command early warning centers within Cheyenne Mountain,
located near Colorado Springs, Colo. These centers immediately
forward data to various agencies and areas of operations around the
world. The Space and Missile Systems Centerís Space Based Infrared
System Program office at Los Angeles AFB, Calif., is responsible for
development and acquisition of the satellites.
satellites are launched into geosynchronous orbit on a Titan IV
booster and inertial upper stage combination. However, one DSP
satellite was launched using the space shuttle on mission STS-44
(Nov. 24, 1991).
DSPís effectiveness was proven during
Desert Storm, when DSP detected the launch of Iraqi Scud missiles
and provided warning to civilian populations and coalition forces in
Israel and Saudi Arabia.
mission: Strategic and tactical missile launch detection
Contractor team: Thompson Ramo Woolridge (TRW) and
Aerojet Electronics Systems
Weight: 5,250 pounds (2,386
Orbit altitude: 22,000 miles (35,200
Power plant: Solar arrays generate 1,485
Height: 32.8 feet (10 meters) on orbit; 28 feet
(8.5 meters) at launch
Diameter: 22 feet (6.7 meters) on
orbit; 13.7 feet (4.2 meters) at launch
Latest Satellite Block: Sat 23
Point of Contact
Air Force Space Command,
Public Affairs Office; 150 Vandenburg St., Suite 1105; Peterson
AFB, CO 80914-4500; 692-3731 or (719) 554-3731.