Mon. Oct 2nd, 2023
The US Space Force Launches “Silent Barker” Satellite Constellation for Tracking Chinese and Russian Spacecraft

The US Space Force has conducted the first launch of a new constellation of early warning satellites known as “Silent Barker.” These satellites are designed to track Chinese or Russian spacecraft that could potentially disable or damage American systems in orbit. The launch took place at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The Silent Barker satellites will be placed in geosynchronous orbit, about 22,000 miles above Earth. This network of satellites is the first of its kind to complement US ground-based radar and low-earth orbit satellites. The exact number of satellites in the Silent Barker constellation has not been disclosed, but it is expected to involve multiple space vehicles.

According to the Space Force, this capability will provide indications and warnings of threats against high-value US systems. It will also enable search, detection, and tracking of objects from space for timely threat detection. NRO Director Chris Scolese described the new constellation as a “watchdog” that surpasses the capabilities of ground-based radar.

The launch used an Atlas V booster operated by the United Launch Alliance, a joint operation of defense contractors Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. The booster was powered by one of the last Russian-made RD-180 engines in the US inventory.

Additional Silent Barker launches are planned, with the goal of having the entire constellation operational by 2026. The constellation is a response to China and Russia’s efforts to develop systems capable of targeting and disabling satellites. China, in particular, has demonstrated its abilities with satellites like the SJ-21 and the Sijian-17, which have the capability to target and manipulate other satellites.

The Silent Barker constellation will provide surveillance from space, augmenting ground sensors and overcoming their limitations. This will ensure 24-hour collection of satellite data, even in challenging weather conditions. By detecting and tracking objects in space, the Space Force aims to enhance the security of US systems and protect against potential threats.