Raytheon Company has successfully completed testing of an infrared missile warning sensor that can monitor an entire hemisphere from a single telescope.

The sensor represents a major technological advance in comparison with existing sensors, which require scanning mechanisms to perform full-earth surveillance of missiles and other infrared targets.

Vice president of Raytheon Space Systems Bill Hart said that the innovative staring sensor, which encompasses Raytheon’s large-format focal-plane arrays, will be able to detect and track dimmer objects than sensors in current operation.

“A persistent sensor that can cover the entire earth gives us the detection sensitivity and responsiveness for time-critical decisions required by the US missile defence system,” Hart said.

The test programme, conducted at Raytheon’s space manufacturing facility in El Segundo, included vibration, electromagnetic interference and thermal vacuum conditions to confirm performance in a simulated space environment.

“We’ve proved we have a design for a sensor with extremely sophisticated technology that is readily qualifiable for space flight,” Hart said.

“In less than 24 months, a fully flight-qualified sensor could be delivered to the government.”

The sensor is the central feature of the third-generation infrared system, sponsored by the US Air Force Space and Missiles Systems Center and managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate in Albuquerque, NM.

Formerly known as the risk-reduction alternative infrared satellite system, the programme aims to demonstrate that wide-field-of-view sensors can maintain persistent full-earth surveillance for missile warning in a relatively small, low-risk, easily manufactured payload.

By Daniel Garrun.