Lockheed Martin has completed final assembly and testing of the propulsion module of the US Air Force’s (USAF) fourth space-based infrared system (SBIRS) geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO-4) space vehicle.
Conducted at Lockheed’s Mississippi Space & Technology Center at the John C Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, US, the milestone enables the company to move forward with the satellite assembly, integration and testing.
The propulsion module has been shipped to the company’s California facility, where the addition of satellite power and avionics boxes will take place prior to installation of the mission payload, which is scheduled to be delivered by Northrop Grumman in late 2014.
Lockheed Martin Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) mission area vice-president Jeffrey Smith said the propulsion module completion represents a significant production milestone for GEO-4 satellite and also demonstrates the company’s commitment to delivering SBIRS’ unprecedented capabilities to the country.
"We are now seeing the efficiency benefits from full production on the SBIRS program and look forward to delivering GEO-4 to the US Air Force in 2015," Smith said.
Apart from manoeuvring the spacecraft during orbit transfer to its final location, the propulsion module also conducts on-orbit repositioning operations throughout its mission life.
The SBIRS satellites are designed to deliver timely and accurate warning for missile launches to the US President, Defence Secretary, combatant commanders, intelligence community and other key decision makers, using a resilient mix of GEO satellites and highly elliptical orbit (HEO) payloads, and related ground hardware and software.
Additional tasks include the provision of support for a range of critical missions, such as missile defence, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness.
Under contract for production of four HEO payloads and four GEO satellites, Lockheed has to date delivered two satellites, while the third is preparing for acoustic and thermal vacuum testing, and is scheduled to be handed over to USAF by the end of 2014.
The company also secured funding from USAF to procure long-lead parts for GEO-5 and GEO-6 satellites.
Image: An artistic impression of USAF’s SBIRS GEO spacecraft in Orbit. Photo: © 2014 Lockheed Martin Corporation.