The US Air Force (USAF) has certified the second Lockheed Martin-built geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO-2) space-based infrared system (SBIRS) satellite for operation.
The acceptance by the Air Force Space Command (AFSC) comes eight months after the satellite’s launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, US, on 19 March 2013.
Lockheed Martin Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) mission area vice president Jeff Smith said the certification validates the performance advances the company expected to observe as the SBIRS programme moved into full production.
"Our team is focused on providing the Air Force with improved affordability and resiliency, as well as evolving SBIRS to new capabilities as we exploit the unprecedented detailed data received from the system," Smith added.
A technologically advanced infrared surveillance spacecraft, the SBIRS GEO-2 is expected to improve the US’s missile warning capabilities, as well as enhance defence, technical intelligence and battlefield awareness.
The GEO SBIRS satellites are designed to deliver timely and accurate warnings for missile launches to the US president, defence secretary, combatant commanders, intelligence community and other key decision makers, using a mixture of four GEO satellites, two highly elliptical earth (HEO) payloads and associated ground hardware and software.
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In addition, the satellite supports the country’s ballistic missile defence system, while expanding its technical intelligence gathering capacity, and enhancing situational awareness for soldiers on the battlefield.
Under contract for production of four HEO payloads and four GEO satellites, Lockheed has already started initial work on the GEO-5 and GEO-6 satellites.
The SBIRS GEO-1 spacecraft was launched in May 2011, and was declared operational in May 2013, while the GEO-3 and GEO-4 are currently under different development stages, and are scheduled to be delivered to USAF in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Image: An impression of a geosynchronous earth orbit space-based infrared system satellite in orbit. Photo: © 2013 Lockheed Martin Corporation.