HomeAbout UsFact SheetsDisplay

Defense Support Program Satellites

DEFENSE SUPPORT PROGRAM SATELLITES

DEFENSE SUPPORT PROGRAM SATELLITES

Mission
Air Force Space Command-operated Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites are a key part of North America's early warning systems. In their 22,300-mile, geosynchronous orbits, DSP satellites help protect the United States and its allies by detecting missile launches, space launches and nuclear detonations.

Features
DSP satellites use an infrared sensor to detect heat from missile and booster plumes against the Earth's 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 missiles 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.  The Space Based Infrared System is projected to replace DSP.

Background
The 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, power to 1,516 watts, number of detectors increased to 6,000, and the design life has increased to a goal of five years.

The 460th Space Wing, with headquarters at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, has units that operate DSP satellites and report warning information, via communications links, to the North American Aerospace Defense Command/U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command early warning centers within Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, located near Colorado Springs, Colorado.  These centers immediately forward data to various agencies and areas of operations around the world.

Typically, DSP satellites were 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).  The final DSP satellite was launched on the new Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Delta-4, Heavy, in November 2007.

DSP's effectiveness was proven during Operation 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.

General Characteristics
Primary mission: strategic and tactical missile launch detection
Contractor: Northrop-Grumman
Weight: 5,250 pounds (2,386 kilograms)
Orbit altitude: approximately 22,300 miles (35,970 kilometers)
Power plant: solar arrays generate 1,516 watts
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
Date deployed: 1970
Latest satellite block: sats 18-23
Unit cost: $400 million
Operational inventory: classified
 
(Current as of November 2015)

Point of Contact: Air Force Space Command, Public Affairs Office; 150 Vandenberg St., Suite 1105; Peterson AFB, Colo., 80914-4500;
692-3731 or (719) 554-3731. 

Engage

Twitter
.@USAFRecruiting's Det. 1 celebrates 2 years of mentoring youth and addressing rated diversity. #AimHigh #ReadyAF https://t.co/jhKqJU829B
Twitter
RT @DeptofDefense: Spotless ✈︎ An airman cleans the canopy of an A-10C Thunderbolt II at Osan Air Base, South Korea 🇰🇷. https://t.co/zybcv…
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: This is #Airmen dedicated to solving challenging problems. #ThisisTest https://t.co/UlC6IBzmJ9
Twitter
Airmen assigned to the 55th Rescue Squadron @Offutt_AFB train on combat maneuvers, scenarios and rescues over Arizo… https://t.co/LV3tVPpt30
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Innovation is driving the future of the @USAirForce and @SpaceForceDoD, and the Rapid Sustainment Office is leading the…
Twitter
RT @cmsaf_official: Wingmen - many of our teammates carry burdens we know nothing about. The load can be heavy - very heavy. Take time…
Twitter
The U-2 Federal Laboratory successfully leveraged Kubernetes during a training sortie on a U-2 Dragon Lady at Beale… https://t.co/3YWoNAKoX4
Twitter
RT @1stAF: DoD #MAFFS C-130s finished firefighting support Oct. 3. Since July 23, @USAFReserve/@AirNatlGuard units from Colo., Nev., Wyo.,…
Twitter
The 389th Fighter Squadron “Thunderbolts” visited three Undergraduate Pilot Training bases with four F-15E Strike E… https://t.co/mxoDmIQB3X
Twitter
“By combining our joint forces with resolute partners and pushing the limits of our training scenarios, we demonstr… https://t.co/H5Vj7oMiZn
Twitter
.@usafe_afafrica Airmen operate across three continents, covering more than 19 million square miles and 104 indepen… https://t.co/RnSNwTCn5p
Twitter
RT @cmsaf_official: Team — please join me in wishing our Navy brothers and sisters a very happy 245th birthday! https://t.co/M21rq0zeyZ
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: Happy 245th Birthday, @USNavy - may the winds be fair and forever in your favor! https://t.co/ZNsHQAEjzk
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Happy 245th birthday to our partners in the @USNavy! Thank you for standing watch with honor, courage, and commitment. F…
Twitter
Today the @USNavy celebrates its 245th Birthday. The Navy’s mission is to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Na… https://t.co/MtEZD261N5
Twitter
The Air Force Recruiting Service established a Tackling Equality to Advance the Mission or TEAM to provide a platfo… https://t.co/yodcTkprnS
Twitter
RT @HQ_AFMC: Like bugs...?🐞🐛 What a neat opportunity to put your #STEM degree to work for AFMC and the @usairforce! #CoolJob #KnowYourMil
Twitter
Members from the @97AMW Civil Engineer Squadron participate in a live fire demonstration at Altus Air Force Base, O… https://t.co/jQlERH7CFy
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,292,600
Follow Us