(El Segundo, Calif., March 2, 2009) -- Raytheon Company has completed performance testing of an infrared missile warning sensor that monitors an entire hemisphere from a single telescope.
The first-of-its-kind staring sensor, encompassing Raytheon's large-format focal-plane arrays, will be able to detect and track dimmer objects than sensors in current operation, according to Bill Hart, vice president for the company's Space Systems group.
"This sensor is important to America's missile-warning capability," Hart said. "A persistent sensor that can cover the entire earth gives us the detection sensitivity and responsiveness our military forces need for time-critical decisions."
The test program, conducted at Raytheon's space manufacturing facility in El Segundo, included vibration, electromagnetic interference and thermal vacuum conditions to confirm performance in a simulated space environment.
"We've proved we have a design for a sensor with extremely sophisticated technology that is readily qualifiable for space flight," Hart said. "In less than 24 months, a fully flight-qualified sensor could be delivered to the government."
The sensor is the central feature of the Third Generation Infrared System, sponsored by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missiles Systems Center and managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate in Albuquerque, N.M.
Formerly known as the Risk Reduction Alternative Infrared Satellite System, the program aims to demonstrate that wide-field-of-view sensors can maintain persistent full-earth surveillance for missile warning in a relatively small, low-risk and easily manufactured payload.
According to Hart, the sensor represents a major technology advance in comparison with the sensors of the Defense Support Program and the Space-based Infrared System High. Both rely on scanning mechanisms to perform full-earth surveillance of missiles and other infrared targets. The tests indicate the Raytheon sensor, which does not require scanning mechanisms and can easily incorporate advances in focal-plane technology, will outperform the other sensors, Hart said.
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