Classified Satellite to Get New Protective Payload

Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, who oversees satellite procurement for the Air Force at the Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, says that a classified satellite will carry the so-called Self-Awareness Space Situational Awareness (SASSA) payload on a forthcoming mission. She declined to identify the satellite, its owner or launch date owing to security concerns. She made her comments Sept. 20 during a talk with reporters at the annual Air Force Association conference outside Washington.

Though a seemingly small step, this could be a sign of a major shift in satellite developments and future ops.

SASSA is designed to alert operators of potential threats to a satellite. The program grew out of concern that satellites in orbit were effectively flying blind because there is insufficient situational awareness of objects in space and their capabilities. This issue has become more worrisome for leaders in light of the 2007 anti-satellite test by China and occasional radio-frequency interference experienced by operators in orbit.

“Space protection is a big problem for us,” says Gen. William Shelton, who oversees Air Force Space Command. He notes that because of the vastness of space..

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