Getting on Track: Space and Airborne Sensors for Hypersonic Missile Defense

Audio Brief

A short, spoken-word summary from CSIS’s Masao Dahlgren on his report, Getting On Track: Space and Airborne Sensors for Hypersonic Missile Defense.

Audio file

The conflict in Ukraine has made it clear that missiles “are foundational to adversaries’ way of war.” Future missile threats, however, increasingly stress existing missile defenses, flying lower, faster, and on unpredictable trajectories. Most importantly, they are difficult to detect—defeating them will require elevated sensors, on aircraft or satellites, to track them at range. As the Department of Defense begins to deploy a space-based sensor constellation, Getting on Track unpacks the design tradeoffs involved and key pitfalls to avoid. Using advanced simulation tools, the authors underscore the necessity of diversifying satellite orbits, designing constellations for early, persistent coverage, and retaining requirements for fire-control-capable sensors.

This report is made possible with support from General Atomics, L3Harris, Leidos, Lockheed Martin, and general support to CSIS.