• Article
  • 11 Jun 2024
Kirsty  WilliamsPhoto
Kirsty Williams

Millennium Space Contract Signals the Future of Space Defence

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Millennium Space, a subsidiary of Boeing, announced at the end of April 2024 that it had secured a major contract from the Space Development Agency (SDA). Valued at $414 million, the contract will focus on the next generation of space-based missile defence.


To understand what this actually means, it’s worth delving a bit deeper into the contract itself and what Millennium Space plans to offer.

What is the Contract?

Millennium Space will receive its funding from the SDA to build missile tracking satellites. On the surface, this sounds fairly straightforward: its satellites will track missiles from space for early detection and warning. From a technical perspective, though, it’s far more complex.

Millennium plans to develop a system it’s named the Fire-control On Orbit-support-to-the-war Fighter, or FOO Fighter for short. The system will leverage developments in satellite constellation systems and space-based data collection to provide far more accurate insights than ever before.

The current plan is to develop and build eight satellites with infrared and optical sensors, which will sit in low-Earth orbit as military support. Millennium will also provide ground system and in-orbit operations for its satellite constellation.

What this Means for the Future of Defence

The SDA plans to develop a large-scale network of satellites called the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture, or PWSA. Eventually, it’ll be a network of hundreds of small, mass-produced satellites that can support military operations across the globe. It’s likely that major defence-focused countries will each have their own constellation, although it’s just as likely that data will be shared between allies.

But why is this important? Put simply, the threat landscape is more advanced than ever, and defence and warning systems must catch up. The main focus of satellites like the FOO Fighter is hypersonic missiles. They can travel at more than five times the speed of sound and are incredibly nimble in air, making them incredibly difficult to detect and neutralise.

And this is where satellite support comes in. The high fidelity sensors on these satellites will serve as an early warning system, giving military powers more time to deal with missiles before they reach their target. Hypersonic missiles are already a potential threat, and it’s fair to say that things will only get more complex.

Also, it would be naïve to overlook the growing importance of space in terrestrial defence networks. Boeing already has a fair share of projects in the realm of space defence, so its subsidiary winning this contract is no surprise. It cements Boeing’s position as a major player in this industry and highlights the ever-growing importance of orbital networks in the protection of Earth.

Launching the Future of Defence

Real-time data isn’t a new concept in defence. But keeping up with advanced threats and providing actionable insights will be increasingly important as technology continues to advance.

Millennium plans to launch its satellites around mid-2027, after which we will likely see a rapid expansion of this detection technology. It’ll be interesting to see how this technology complements existing missile detection systems, and how they’ll work together in the future.