The US Air Force and Lockheed have successfully completed the thermal vacuum test of the first space-based infrared system (SBIRS) geosynchronous (GEO-1) satellite.

During the test, performed inside Lockheed’s dual-entry large thermal altitude (DELTA) chamber, the satellite went through the extreme hot and cold temperature conditions that it will experience in space to verify spacecraft functionality and performance in a vacuum environment.

The thermal vacuum test validates the overall satellite design, quality of workmanship and survivability during space vehicle launch and on-orbit operations.

Following the spacecraft environmental test, Lockheed will begin the final production work on the satellite, and execute a series of integrated spacecraft and system tests to ensure the vehicle is ready for flight.

The first SBIRS GEO spacecraft will undergo final processing and preparation for launch aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle, after it is delivered to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, in late 2010.

The air force’s SBIRS programme has been designed to provide early warning of missile launches, simultaneously providing important capabilities to other missions, including missile defence, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness.

Under the SBIRS contract, Lockheed will deliver two highly elliptical orbit (HEO) payloads currently on-orbit, two geosynchronous orbit (GEO) satellites, and ground-based assets for receiving and processing the infrared data, to the air force.