JUST IN: Final Satellite in Missile Warning System Scheduled for Launch

By Josh Luckenbaugh

Lockheed Martin photo

The last piece in the U.S. military’s space-based missile defense architecture is set to launch Thursday, Aug. 4.

This sixth and final Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit, or SBIRS GEO, satellite will complete the missile warning satellite constellation, which consists of spacecraft in both geosynchronous and highly elliptical orbits. Along with missile warning and defense, the fleet carries out battlespace awareness and technical intelligence for the United States, Col. Daniel Walter, senior material leader for strategic missile warning acquisition at Space Systems Command, said during a media roundtable Aug. 1.

Since the launch of the first SBIRS GEO satellite in 2011, “the space domain has transitioned from a benign to contested and congested environment,” said Col. Brian Denaro, Space Force’s program executive officer for space sensing. “SBIRS GEO-6 provides another critical, unblinking eye to detect, track and defend against ballistic and hypersonic missile threat,” he added.

SBIRS GEO-6 will lift off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle, which has carried every SBIRS GEO satellite into space, said the mission director John Steinmeyer.

Once in orbit, the satellite will undergo extensive testing, with the goal of achieving operational acceptance in spring or summer 2023, said Maj. Matthew Blystone, Space Force program manager for SBIRS GEO-5 and 6. SBIRS GEO-6 has a 12-year service life, according to Denaro.

Featuring two infrared sensors, SBIRS GEO-6 can detect and provide data on missile launches across the world, said Blystone. The SBIRS constellation “serves as the country's first line of defense, performing early warning launch detection and notification to inform America's governmental leaders and decision makers as well as forces on the battlefield,” he said.

SBIRS GEO-6, along with the fifth satellite in the constellation which launched last year, are based on Lockheed Martin’s LM2100 Combat Bus. Compared to older satellites, this design offers enhanced capabilities including “cyber hardening, resiliency features, enhanced spacecraft power, improved propulsion and electronics and leverages common build processes that allow us to go faster,” said Michael Corriea, the company's vice president for the overhead persistent infrared systems mission area.

The LM2100 Combat Bus will also provide the framework for the missile defense satellites that will follow SBIRS, said Corriea. The first satellite of the next generation missile warning spacecraft is currently in production and on track to launch in 2025, he said.


Topics: Space, Missile Defense

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