The US Air Force’s US strategic command (USSTRATCOM) has certified the second space-based infrared system (SBIRS) highly elliptical orbit (HEO-2) payload and associated ground systems for missile warning operations.

The SBIRS has been built by Lockheed Martin to provide early warning of missile launches, and simultaneously support other missions including missile defence, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness.

The certification concludes the development, operation, certification of the SBIRS HEO sensor and ground systems capabilities for providing accurate warning data for USSTRATCOM missions.

Two HEO payloads, two geosynchronous orbit (GEO) satellites and ground-based assets to receive and process the infrared data are included in the Lockheed Martin’s SBIRS contract.

The team was recently awarded a $1.5bn contract for the third HEO payload, the third GEO-3 satellite and associated ground modifications. A contract for a fourth HEO payload and fourth GEO satellite is expected to be awarded later this year.

The next phase includes thermal vacuum testing for the GEO satellite, consisting of simulated tests in space flight-like environment.