USAF launches third SBIRS GEO Flight 3 satellite aboard Atlas V rocket


The US Air Force (USAF) has successfully launched the third space-based infrared system (SBIRS) geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) satellite from a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The Lockheed Martin-built SBIRS GEO Flight 3 satellite, equipped with scanning and staring sensors, was launched on 20 January to support the USAF with early missile warning and defence.

The satellite started responding to commands, approximately 37 minutes after lift-off, Lockheed stated.

Lockheed Martin Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) systems mission area vice-president David Sheridan said: "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.”

When the satellite reaches its final geosynchronous orbit, the satellite's solar arrays, light shade and antennas will be deployed to begin early on-orbit testing.

The SBIRS GEO Flight 3 satellite is capable of collecting and transmitting infrared surveillance information to ground stations.

The satellite information will be used by the US military to detect missile launches, support ballistic missile defence, expand technical intelligence gathering and bolster situational awareness on the battlefield.

"When the satellite reaches its final geosynchronous orbit, the satellite's solar arrays, light shade and antennas will be deployed to begin early on-orbit testing."

Aerojet Rocketdyne has supported the mission by providing RL10C-1 upper-stage engine, six helium pressurisation tanks, and 12 Centaur upper-stage reaction control system thrusters (RCS).

It also provided 18 monopropellant hydrazine thrusters on the GEO Flight 3 satellite.

The next SBIRS satellite, GEO Flight 4, is expected to be launched later this year after undergoing final assembly, integration and test.


Image: SBIRS GEO Flight 3 launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation.