USAF takes control of first SBIRS satellite

By MARTIN SIEFF, UPI Senior News Analyst

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force has taken over control of the first Space Based Infrared System -- SBIRS -- orbiting missile launch detection system.

Lockheed Martin, whose Space Systems Co. is the prime contractor on the SBIRS project, announced in a statement Tuesday it had completed the transfer of payload and ground system operations of the first SBIRS Highly Elliptical Orbit -- HEO-1 -- satellite to the U.S. Air Force in preparation. What Lockheed Martin described as "certified operations" is scheduled to begin before the end of 2008.


The SBIRS system is the next generation of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance -- ISR -- for ballistic missile defense in space. It is planned to give the earliest possible alert of any potentially hostile ballistic missile launches around the world and to fulfill other space-based technical intelligence and battle-space surveillance functions.


The HEO-1 was fired into orbit in November 2006, and Lockheed Martin said it has since "been exceeding performance specifications during an extensive on-orbit test regimen" before being turned over to the U.S. Air Force for active service.

The company said HEO-1's payload and ground components would be put through one further operational test and evaluation before being declared fully operational..

"This major milestone is direct testimony to our entire team's talent and dedication to successfully deliver this vitally important program to the war fighter," said Jeff Smith, Lockheed Martin's SBIRS vice president.

"The improved infrared event detection and reporting capabilities provided by SBIRS are critical to our nation's information and intelligence architecture, and we look forward to achieving total mission success for our customer," Smith said.

Lockheed Martin said the SBIRS project was directed by the Space Based Infrared Systems Wing at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., based at Sunnyvale, Calif., remains the program's prime contractor, and Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems in Azusa, Calif., serves as the program's payload integrator. Air Force Space Command directs the SBIRS system.


Lockheed Martin noted the U.S. Air Force recently said the HEO-2 SBIRS payload was now also in space orbiting above the Northern Hemisphere and that it was already satisfying or surpassing its required specifications after completing its own "on-orbit checkout."

Lockheed Martin said the HEO satellites carried what it described as "improved sensitivity needed to detect dimmer theater missiles."

The company said HEO-2 was expected enter active duty in the first months of next year. It said HEO-2 also would provide battlefield intelligence on missile, aircraft and other developments transmitted in real time.

Lockheed Martin said its engineers were also pushing ahead with integration and test procedures on the first SBIRS geo-synchronous orbit -- GEO -- spacecraft. The company said it was at work on connecting the GEO-1 satellite's solar arrays, deployable light shade and thermal blankets before beginning scheduled acoustic and pyro-shock testing later this month.

In those tests, the integrated GEO-1 satellite will be bombarded with heavy sounds and vibrations comparable to those it will experience during takeoff. In the middle of next year, the GEO will begin thermal vacuum testing to check out its reliability in conditions hotter than those it will be exposed to in orbit, before its scheduled launch into space in December 2009.


Russia to extend its BMD to Caucasus and Central Asia regions.

Russia is going to push ahead with deploying its missile defense systems in the Caucasus and Central Asia regions, the nation's air force commander said Tuesday.

"The practice of military cooperation in missile defense systems illustrated expediency to further develop the United Missile Defense System of C.I.S. members on a regional basis," three-star Col-Gen. Alexander Zelin said, according to a report carried in the Moscow business newspaper Kommersant Tuesday.

"Active work is under way to create the United Regional Missile Defense System of Belarus and the (Russian Federation) in the East European Region of Collective Security, and it appears expedient to proceed in future to establishing the respective systems in Caucasus and Middle Asia," Zelin said.

Kommersant said Zelin described the United Missile Defense System, run by Russia in conjunction with several other former Soviet republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States, as including the Missile Defense Force of Armenia, Air Force and Missile Defense Force of Belarus, Air Defense Force of Kazakhstan, Air Defense Force of Kyrgyzstan, Air Force of the Russian Federation, Air Force and Missile Defense Force of Tajikistan, Missile Defense Force and Air Force of Uzbekistan and Air Force of Ukraine.


"In general, the established system of control ensures coordination of forces and means that are parts of the United Missile Defense System, as well as the interchange of data on air situation, combat alertness and results of combat actions of missile defense forces of member states," Zelin said.

Russia's Tor-M1 anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense system has been sold to Venezuela and Iran, and its proponents have claimed it is capable of shooting down most U.S. sub-sonic Tomahawk cruise missiles. The most advanced Russian anti-aircraft and anti-ballistic missile is the S-400, which has been deployed around Moscow, but progress in mass-producing operational units of the S-400 has been very slow and it is believed to be far behind schedule.

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