Lockheed Martin Missile Warning Satellite Brings First Infrared Imagery

Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) geosynchronous (GEO-1) spacecraft, the first Lockheed Martin built, beamed down its first infrared image last June 21, 2011 to the SBIRS ground station.

The SBIRS GEO-1 spacecraft is the US Air Force’s most technologically advanced military infrared satellite ever developed. It will enhance the military’s ability to detect missile launches around the world and will support the country’s ballistic missile defense system. Together with that, the system will expand technical intelligence gathering capability and is expected to bolster situational awareness for warfighters in the battlefield.

“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.”

missile warning satellite
Shown here is the first geosynchronous (GEO1) Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) missile warning satellite during fairing encapsulation in preparation for an early May launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

The satellite includes highly sophisticated scanning and staring sensors that deliver improved infrared sensitivity. It reduces area revisit times over the current constellation. The scanning sensor provides a wide area surveillance of missile launches and natural phenomena across the earth, while the staring sensor will be used to observe smaller areas of interest with superior sensitivity.

After launch, the US Air Force and Lockheed Martin SBIRS ground team executed a series of six Liquid Apogee Engine (LAE) 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 sophisticated infrared sensors to begin the start of early orbit calibration and testing.

“SBIRS GEO-1 is performing flawlessly thus far, and the first image sent from the satellite is outstanding,” said Jeff Smith, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) mission area. “We are focused on executing an efficient and thorough checkout of the spacecraft and ultimately delivering unprecedented infrared surveillance capabilities to our nation.”

The SBIRS team is led by the Infrared Space Systems Directorate at the US Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Lockheed Martin is the SBIRS prime contractor, with Northrop Grumman as the payload integrator. Air Force Space Command operates the SBIRS system.

Lockheed Martin’s original SBIRS contract includes HEO payloads, two geosynchronous orbit (GEO) satellites, as well as ground-based assets to receive and process the infrared data. The team is also under a follow-on production contract to deliver additional HEO payloads and the third and fourth GEO satellites, and associated ground modifications.

Lockheed Martin is a global security company that employs about 126,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation’s 2010 sales from continuing operations were $45.8 billion. It is headquartered in Bethesda, Md.