U.S. Department of Defense - Missile Defense Agency

U.S. Department of Defense - Missile Defense Agency

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2010 Technology Achievement Award Winner

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BURNT FROST Team

 

MDA, Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed, FFRDC/UARC

In December 2007, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) assembled a specialized team of experts that successfully responded to President George W. Bush's order to destroy a malfunctioning U.S. satellite (designated U.S.A.-193) before it crashed to Earth and released a cloud of toxic hydrazine gas that could threaten human life. MDA, Industry, and the Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC)/University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) family developed an "A-team" for Operation BURNT FROST composed of Dr. R. Louis Bellaire (Massachusetts Institute of Technology[MIT]-Lincoln Laboratory, an FFRDC), Dr. Gary A. Sullins (Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory[APL], a UARC), Mr. Adam D. Art and Mr. Stephen W. Stone (Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems--Missile Defense Radars), Mr. Paul O. Smith and Mr. F. Scott Parks (Boeing--Ground-based Midcourse Defense [GMD]), Mr. John M. Bier (MDA--Ground-based Midcourse Defense [GMD]), Mr. Scott D. Perry (MDA--Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense [BMD]), Dr. Anthony J. Desimone (Lockheed Martin--Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System), and Mr. Richard Hussey (Raytheon Missile Systems Standard Missile[SM]-3 Program Manager). The team's efforts between December 2007 and February 2008 demonstrated the ability of the U.S. military, with the support of its defense contractors, to adapt sensors and software in responding to the unconventional threat. The dedication and technical expertise of this team were instrumental in the satellite's intercept.

The team represented the leading expertise in missile systems, aerospace, orbital mechanics, and mission system design. Due to the satellite's rapidly degrading orbit, there was an extremely short timeline for the team to join together to overcome the threat and achieve mission success. First, the satellite and its orbit needed to be studied and characterized. Models of the satellite were created by the Lincoln Lab and APL team members and validated by information provided by the sensors operated by the Raytheon and Boeing missile defense team members. The team then developed a plan based on their extensive expertise and the results from their simulation and analyses to meet the challenge of shooting down a satellite traveling much faster and higher than any object ever intercepted. Quickly, the team recognized that the Aegis BMD system was the most likely to be able to intercept the satellite. To use the Aegis BMD system in this capacity, significant modifications were needed and an intensive design, test and training effort undertaken. Overseen by MDA and led by a small group of U.S. government officers and civilians, the Aegis BMD government-industry-laboratory team members modified three Standard missiles, the SPY-1 radar and the Aegis BMD fire-control system to ensure the system successfully and reliably worked in this new application. Through all of this, the sensors team members tracked the satellite to accurately predict its reentry date and to determine the optimal time and location for firing the missile to intercept it.

Dr. Bellaire, Mr. Bier and Dr. Sullins provided the end-to-end systems perspective necessary to increase the probability of a successful mission. Dr. Bellaire and Mr. Bier assembled and led a group who delivered a synchronized sensors architecture that ensured the successful satellite engagement, while Dr. Sullins oversaw the group whose expertise in simulation, design and testing of the Aegis BMD system helped determine what modifications were required and how the mission could best be executed. Complicating the situation was the very limited predictability of the satellite's orbital decay and the very short time available after radar acquisition for the interceptor to acquire, close, and hit the satellite.

Mr. Art and Mr. Stone, together with Mr. Parks and Mr. Smith, rapidly adapted multiple sensors from developmental assets previously used only in individual operational scenarios into an integrated asset stretching from Massachusetts to Hawaii. While each member of Raytheon's family of missile defense radars already had the capability to track satellites for calibration purposes, none had previously been used to target a satellite. Successful completion of the satellite shoot-down brought together groups on the Upgraded Early Warning Radar (UEWR), Ground Based Radar-Prototype (GBR-P), AN/TPY-2 and Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX) programs to collect data on the satellite, characterize the orbital degradation, determine the tools and criteria required for the engagement and intercept, and then successfully execute the mission and assess mission success in the aftermath of the intercept.

Within the Aegis BMD program, Mr. Perry, the first to conclude the mission was technically feasible, was the primary technical liaison between the MDA and Aegis BMD leadership and was the mission host during the satellite interception. Dr. Desimone led his group to develop test programs and modify computer program code to identify the satellite as a valid target, declare the satellite engageable and to compute valid intercept points. Mr. Hussey oversaw the SM-3 design changes needed for mission success and the delivery of three modified missiles within 26 days.

In cooperation with the U.S. Navy, the Aegis BMD team launched an intensive design, test, and training effort to reconfigure the Aegis BMD system onboard the USS Lake Erie to enable it to attempt this one-time mission. They updated the ship's advanced fire control system, allowing it to identify, track, and engage the satellite, even though the system was specifically designed to avoid such engagements. The team also made special modifications to the system's SM-3 interceptor, extending its capabilities to achieve the altitude and closing velocity required for this unique undertaking. Finally, on February 20, 2008, the extraordinary efforts of the Operation BURNT FROST team were realized when the USS Lake Erie acquired the satellite, launched the interceptor, and eliminated the threat.

As a whole, this team took a set of diverse and unrelated defense assets and, in a matter of weeks, integrated them into an effective weapon system, enabling the successful interception of the satellite and potentially saving countless lives. The success of this mission speaks to this team's flexibility, ingenuity, and drive to achieve the seemingly impossible. When the nation needed an extraordinary capability, they stepped up and delivered it.

Theater Critical Measurements Program Team

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) established the Theater Critical Measurements Program (TCMP) shortly after the 1991 Persian Gulf War to fill a knowledge gap in our understanding regarding the behavior of theater ballistic missiles (TBMs) and the potential of various mitigation techniques against debris and countermeasures. Mr. David R. Israel, then SDIO Deputy Director, recognized the need to gather data on theater threat objects and, in collaboration with Dr. Keh-Ping Dunn of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory, developed the constituency and the technical plan for this important measurement program. They assembled and led a strong team, which included: LTC Christopher B. Johnson, SDIO; Mr. Charles T. Jennings, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command; Dr. Donald S. Coe, MIT Lincoln Laboratory; Mr. David L. Immerman, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Dr. Paul A. Temple, SDIO, and Dr. Daniel A. O'Connor, MIT Lincoln Laboratory to conduct the field test campaign. The initial campaign focused on issues that confronted the PATRIOT (Phased Array Tracking Radar Intercept On Target) air defense system during the Gulf War deployment, but were as equally important to the broader theater mission area within SDIO. The success of the first campaign (Jan 93) led to continuation of the effort with additional dedicated campaigns that extended over the next decade and provided the ballistic missile defense community with a wealth of data and capability demonstrations. The TCMP consisted of three campaigns that included eight individual flight tests with the final test conducted in 2001. Success of these early campaigns eventually led to the Critical Measurements Program, and the Counter-Measure Critical Measurements Program.

The following are key TCMP contributions:

  1. Accelerated the PATRIOT Advanced Capability (PAC)-3 radar development and testing with realistic TBM targets and environments;
  2. Provided the first real-time TBM tracking by Aegis AN/SPY-1 radar and guided the future development and testing of the Aegis high-range resolution advanced waveform;
  3. Incorporated the first Fly-Away Sensor Package to collect resolved infrared data for seeker algorithm development and testing against TBM targets and debris;
  4. Conducted a series of Interoperability Tests between the US TBM defense elements against a variety of TBM targets;
  5. Collected a spectrum of TBM countermeasure and debris environment data using element sensors as well as radio frequency/infrared instrumentation sensors to support model development and algorithm testing. These data are still being used by MDA and its contractors.