SKA experiment sensor
Our Contribution

The Mission

APL developed and tested the sensors for the Missile Defense Agency’s Spacebased Kill Assessment (SKA) system, currently on orbit and executing planned test events. In this context, “kill” refers to the act of hitting a missile with a kinetic interceptor to destroy it.

Spacecraft and Instruments

The SKA system is a network of small sensors hosted on commercial satellites. The individual sensors house three infrared detectors used to collect the energy signature of the impact between a threat ballistic missile and an interceptor of the Ballistic Missile Defense System.

Results and Expectations

SKA is important to materiel developers like the Missile Defense Agency because it provides a real-world example of rapid development and fielding of a system through an innovative acquisitions process that delivered a payload on orbit in half the time of traditional space programs and employing rapid commercial launches that provided full capability in months, not years. Additionally, SKA is currently providing situational awareness to the U.S. Northern Command during declared Periods of Heightened Activity.

Mission Facts

In April 2019, MDA made the decision to initiate efforts to add SKA to the missile defense system Operational Baseline, through a process of performance and design suitability verification and validation.

You Are Here
Graphic of Earth

See More of APL’s Work Across the Solar System

Explore the Destination Map