CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force has encapsulated its Space Based Infrared System satellite in preparation for the craft's planned launch.
The satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, is scheduled to be launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on Jan. 19. The system will be sealed in a protective cone, the last step satellites must undergo before launch.
The Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit Satellite, known as SBIRS GEO, will be used to transmit surveillance information, detect missile launches, support ballistic missile defense and intelligence-gathering operations.
Lockheed Martin Overhead Persistent Infrared vice president David Sheridan says the encapsulation marks a milestone for the company's program with the Air Force.
"The satellite's successful delivery and encapsulation closes out a manufacturing process that Lockheed Martin has continued to streamline with each build, driving significant schedule and cost reductions into the SBIRS program," he said in a press release. "With its launch, the addition of GEO Flight 3 into the constellation will greatly enhance SBIRS' ability to provide resilient, space-based infrared surveillance capabilities for decades to come."
The next SBIRS GEO satellite, designated GEO Flight 4, is planned for launch later in 2017. Two additional satellites, GEO 5 and GEO 6, are currently in production.