LOS ANGELES, March 23 (UPI) -- Two low-Earth-orbiting U.S. satellites have detected and tracked a ballistic missile launch through all phases of flight for the first time, officials said.
This birth-to-death tracking of a ballistic missile launch had never been accomplished before from space and is a significant achievement for the Space Tracking and Surveillance System spacecraft, Doug Young of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, builder of the satellites, said.
On March 16 the satellites tracked an ARAV-B short-range target missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii, SPACE.com reported.
An STSS satellite detected the heat signature of the launch and then locked on to the boosting missile, Young said.
The data was relayed to the second satellite, which tracked the missile as it coasted through space, re-entered the atmosphere and splashed down in the ocean, he said.
A tracking of a complete missile firing from launch to landing has been a long-sought goal, he said.
"It's the Holy Grail for missile defense," Young said.