By the end of 2017, the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) will have 22 sensor systems in orbit to monitor whether incoming missiles have been destroyed by interceptors, MDA Director Vice Admiral James Syring told a US Senate hearing on Wednesday.

“We started this year, and by the end of next year there’ll be 22 payloads fielded on a commercial satellite constellation,” Syring told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. “[F]or classification reasons I’ll just leave it at that.”

The sensors would allow the MDA to experiment and demonstrate a “space base[d] kill assessment capability,” Syring continued.

“It’s a small step, but it’s a necessary step to prove what a function in space can be done persistently and globally,” he explained.

The sensors, Syring argued “will be an important risk reducer as the department decides what we are going to do in the future in space for missile defense.”

The MDA is developing an experimental network of space-based sensors that would be launched in commercial satellites, and they verify whether incoming missiles have been destroyed by defensive interceptors, Space News reported in 2015.

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