The US Congress has revealed that the estimated cost of the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) is more than twice that originally estimated. The first launch is already delayed by two years to 2005.

SBIRS is a ballistic missile early warning system consisting of a High orbit system with four satellites in geo-stationary orbit and two in an elliptical orbit, and a Low orbit system of 30 smaller craft.

The estimated cost is now $23 billion, compared with the original forecast of $10 billion.

This is mainly due to difficulties with the SBIRS Low network, including problems with the infrared sensors designed to detect missile exhaust plumes. In addition the bus is overweight.

The Low element, in particular, has been criticised and it has been suggested that less expensive systems, such as ground-based radar should be used.

Meanwhile, the first launch of the Strategic Target System (STARS) failed on 9 November when the mission was aborted at T+52s.

The three-stage missile - two Polaris ballistic missile stages and an Orbus upper stage - was launched from Kodiak, Alaska, before being destroyed after a telemetry failure and a loss of communications.

Source: Flight International