The Space Development Agency (SDA), which is tasked to build a national space architecture, plans to conduct an experiment that studies planet Earth's infrared background, Breaking Defense reported Tuesday.
The Northrop Grumman-made Prototype Infrared Payload or PIRPL will gather data the Department of Defense (DOD) intends to use for future missile-tracking algorithms.
Data gathered via PIRPL's multispectral infrared camera would inform future methods for tracking hypersonic missile threats. The government will use this data to characterize the planet's infrared background and support clearer tracking of hypersonic missiles.
SDA and the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) commissioned PIRPL, which launched Tuesday on Northrop's Cygnus spacecraft and Antares rocket. Cygnus will deliver PIRPL and other cargo to the International Space Station under a contract with NASA.
Northrop developed PIRPL under a $38 million contract with SDA and MDA.