SBIRS transmits imagery

July 8, 2011 at 10:12 AM
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DENVER, July 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force's SBIRS GEO-1 missile warning satellite has delivered its first infrared imagery to its ground station.

Lockheed Martin, which built the Space Based Infrared System geosynchronous spacecraft launched in May, said the satellite is performing as expected and undergoing early orbit testing.

The SBIRS GEO-1 spacecraft is the most technologically advanced military infrared satellite developed and will enhance the military's ability to detect missile launches around the globe, support the nation's ballistic missile defense system, greatly expand technical intelligence gathering capability and bolster situational awareness for warfighters on the battlefield.

The satellite includes highly sophisticated scanning and staring sensors that deliver improved 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, while the staring sensor will be used to observe smaller areas of interest with superior sensitivity, Lockheed said.

"We are tremendously proud of Team SBIRS for their superb efforts to initialize the Air Force's newest, most capable infrared payload," said Col. Mike Noble, deputy director of the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center's Infrared Space Systems Directorate. "This is another important milestone for the SBIRS' Air Force and industry team.

"Successful payload activation is a major step toward fielding the all-new GEO capabilities for the nation and joint warfighters."

After launch in May, the U.S. Air Force/Lockheed Martin SBIRS ground team executed a series of six Liquid Apogee Engine burns to propel the spacecraft to its geosynchronous orbital slot. The team then deployed the satellite's solar arrays, light shade and antenna wing assemblies.

Most recently, the team opened the satellite's payload doors and activated its infrared sensors to begin the start of early orbit calibration and testing.

Lockheed Martin is the SBIRS prime contractor, with Northrop Grumman as the payload integrator. Air Force Space Command operates the SBIRS system.

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