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New missile warning satellite responding to commands

Lockheed Martin says its newly launched missile warning satellite is to undergo operational testing before being handed over to the U.S. Air Force.

By
Richard Tomkins
The SBIRS-3 missile warning satellite launched Friday is responding to ground commands. Photo courtesy United Launch Alliance
The SBIRS-3 missile warning satellite launched Friday is responding to ground commands. Photo courtesy United Launch Alliance

Jan. 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force's third SBIRS missile warning satellite launched Friday is responding to ground control commands and transitioning into its orbit location.

Lockheed Martin, maker of the satellite, said successful communications with the Space Based Infrared System began 37 minutes after its launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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"After a successful ULA launch, signal acquisition is the first critical event in SBIRS' mission to support the Air Force with early missile warning and defense," said David Sheridan, vice president of Lockheed Martin's Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) systems mission area. "With communications now established, our job begins to deliver SBIRS to its final orbit so we can complete deployments and operational testing in anticipation of the satellite's formal acceptance by the Air Force."

The SBIRS-3 satellite is equipped with scanning and staring sensors that collect and transmit infrared surveillance information to ground stations. The information is used by the U.S. military to detect missile launches, support ballistic missile defense, expand technical intelligence gathering, and bolster battlefield situational awareness.

The satellite's geosynchronous orbit is at a location about 22,000 miles above the Earth, Lockheed said.

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