If you haven’t heard about the Space Sensor Layer, you will. The Pentagon wants to put hundreds of small satellites in low earth orbit so that they can track hypersonic glide weapons. Russia and China are both developing such weapons with an eye to negating the investment America has made in missile defense. Hypersonic weapons travel at speeds of a mile per second or greater, but that’s not the big challenge in defeating them. The big challenge is that they fly low (within the atmosphere) and maneuver unpredictably. The only way to track them continuously is from above. That is the main reason for deploying an infrared sensor layer in low earth orbit–although it will also be useful for performing other military missions. What the Pentagon needs to do first, though, is decide how the Space Sensor Layer fits in with the rest of its overhead architecture. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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