COLORADO SPRINGS — A repairable fault with a piece of electronics onboard the Space-Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) satellite boosted in September 2010 is prompting Air Force Space Command chief Gen. William Shelton to hold off on declaring initial operational capability for the space situational awareness sensor.

“I’m not comfortable that we fully understand some sensor activity,” Shelton said at this week’s 28th National Space Symposium here. “I have some concern about getting that sensor up to full specifications.” Boeing is the SBSS prime contractor, and Ball Aerospace made the satellite.

Doug Loverro, Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) executive director, tells Aviation Week the issue is a payload electronics board that has experienced faults as the satellite travels through the South Atlantic Anomaly, a zone of high radiation that can be troublesome for some satellites. The fix, a software upload, is being implemented this month.

The problem — and the fix — were known by the vendor, Loverro says. But they were not inserted into the program prior to launch. “We knew how to make it not have this problem, but we didn’t implement it on the SBSS satellite,” he says.

Though fixable, Loverro notes that this was an “operational annoyance,” as those handling the satellites were not sure when a failure would occur and when a reset was needed.

Testing on the software should begin shortly after the upload is complete, he adds.