The US Air Force’s first space-based infrared system (SBIRS) geosynchronous (GEO-1) satellite has begun the environmental testing phase with thermal vacuum testing.

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

During the test, the spacecraft will be stressed at the extreme hot and cold temperatures that it will experience in space to verify spacecraft functionality and performance in a vacuum environment.

The test will also validate the overall satellite design and survivability during space vehicle launching and on-orbit operations.

Lockheed Martin’s SBIRS contract includes the three highly elliptical orbit (HEO) payloads, three geosynchronous orbit (GEO) satellites and ground-based assets to receive and process the infrared data.

GEO-1 is scheduled for delivery and launch in the beginning of fiscal year 2011 aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle.

The Air Force Space Command operates the SBIRS system.