BMD Watch: SASC agrees to fund BMD bases

By MARTIN SIEFF, UPI Senior News Analyst

WASHINGTON, May 2 (UPI) -- President Bush's hard-driving determination to build anti-ballistic missile bases in Central Europe cleared another hurdle Thursday when the Armed Services Committee of the U.S. Senate approved funding for the coming Fiscal year 2009 to construct them.

Bush wants to build a base in Poland with 10 Ground-based Mid-course Interceptors that could hit and destroy any nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles fired by Iran or other "rogue" states against the United States or Central Europe. A companion base containing advanced radar arrays to guide the GBIs on to their intended target is to be built in the neighboring Czech Republic.


The Democrat-controlled 110th Congress has strongly supportive to maintaining and funding U.S. ballistic missile defense programs and Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate have cooperated highly successfully on most issues. But there was for some time, more perceived reluctance to fund the Polish and Czech bases. Russia has furiously moved to oppose them, claiming the installations will be aimed at her instead of Iran.


The Senate Armed Services Committee does not mean that the president's BMD base plan has cleared all its political and diplomatic hurdles yet. The Polish and Czech parliaments must vote to formally approve construction of the bases. And on Capitol Hill, the U.S. Senate still has to formally pass the legislation, which it is expected to do. After that the Senate legislation will have to be reconciled with legislation on the issue that had passed the House. However, the smooth process with which SASC Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., guided the measure to approval augurs well for its continued uninterrupted passage.

The SASC's approval of funding Thursday was the third victory the BMD bases program had won within four days. On Monday, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek told reporters in Prague that a formal agreement with the United States to build the bases was very close and should be signed in June. Two days later, Topolanek Wednesday narrowly survived a vote of no confidence in his right-of-center coalition government by 101 votes to 98 in the Czech Parliament.

SBIRS GEO-1 spacecraft passes BIST test

Lockheed Martin said Wednesday it had completed a vital integrated test milestone on its first Space-Based Infrared System geo-synchronous orbit spacecraft.


The GEO-1 is planned to be a crucial part of the next generation of U.S. space-based global missile defense capabilities. Lockheed Martin said in a statement that the satellite has just gone through its comprehensive Baseline Integrated System Test, a process that began nearly two months ago to assess its overall performance and create what the company called "a performance baseline for entering environmental testing."

"I am proud of our entire team for completing this significant milestone ahead of the planned schedule," said Col Roger Teague, the U.S. Air Force's SBIRS wing commander. "We continue to build confidence as we march towards the inaugural launch of this vitally important spacecraft."

Now that the GEO-1 has gone through its BIST procedure, Lockheed Martins aid the next phase of its production process will be to install its solar arrays, deployable light shade, and thermal blankets. The GEO-1 will then be readied for its acoustic and pyro-shock tests when it will be bombarded with massive sound and vibration effects to simulate the conditions it will experience when it is fired into space.

"This comprehensive test confirms our readiness to enter the critical environmental test stage," said Jeff Smith, Lockheed Martin's SBIRS vice president and program manager. "Our team continues to make significant progress on this sophisticated satellite and we look forward to achieving mission success for our customer."


Lockheed Martin said the SBIRS team was directed by the Space Based Infrared Systems Wing at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Sunnyvale, Calif. remains the SBIRS prime contractor, and Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems of Azusa, Calif. Serves as the payload integrator. U.S. Air Force Space Command runs the SBIRS system.

Lockheed Martin' said it remained under contract to provide two highly elliptical orbit payloads and two GEO satellites, along with ground-based equipment to record and analyze the infrared data the system transmitted.

Lockheed Martin said it had already completed and handed over its two HEO payloads to the U.S. Air Force. The company said the first GEO satellite was still on time to be fired into orbit late next year.

Lockheed Martin said the first HEO payload had also passed its first on-orbit deployment and checkout and that it had performed according to or better than its projected specifications. The company said it was also working on building more GEO spacecraft and HEO payloads to expand the SBIRS systems deployed in orbit.

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