Launch of SBIRS GEO-2 satellite boosts nation’s early warning launch detection capabilities

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The United States’ ballistic missile early warning launch detection and missile defense capabilities received a big boost March 19.

That’s when the U.S. Air Force’s second Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO-2) satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, launched successfully from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

Considered one of the nation’s highest priority space programs, SBIRS is designed to provide global, persistent, infrared and taskable surveillance capabilities to meet 21st Century demands in the areas of missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness.

The SBIRS constellation is designed to deliver timely, reliable, accurate and vital missile warning information to a host of officials, including the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, combatant commanders, joint task force commanders, the intelligence community and other key decision makers.

“Launching the SBIRS GEO-2 satellite into the SBIRS constellation is absolutely critical for our national security and stands as a proud accomplishment for our government and industry team,” said Mark Valerio, vice president and general manager of Military Space for Lockheed Martin Space Systems.  “This launch will significantly enhance resilient space-based infrared surveillance capabilities for the United States and its allies at a time when the capability is growing all the more essential.”

The SBIRS architecture encompasses hosted sensor payloads in Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO), dedicated Geosynchronous Earth Orbiting (GEO) satellites and associated ground infrastructure to receive, process and deliver the infrared information to key decision makers.

SBIRS GEO-2 boasts advanced scanning and staring sensors that will provide enhanced infrared sensitivity and a reduction in area revisit times over the current constellation.  The scanning sensor will provide a wide-area surveillance of missile launches and natural phenomena across the earth, while the staring sensor will observe smaller areas of interest with superior sensitivity.

The SBIRS team is led by the Infrared Space Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Lockheed Martin is the SBIRS prime contractor, Northrop Grumman is the payload integrator. Air Force Space Command operates the SBIRS system.

Lockheed Martin’s SBIRS contracts include four HEO payloads, four GEO satellites, and ground assets to receive, process, and disseminate the infrared mission data.  The team has also begun procuring long lead parts for the fifth and sixth GEO satellites.  HEO payloads and the first GEO satellite have already launched into orbit.

Posted March 19, 2013

Atlas V SBIRS GEO-2 Launch

A ULA Atlas V rocket blasts off  carrying the second SBIRS GEO-2 satellite


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Photo Courtesy: ULA