The US Air Force (USAF) has encapsulated its next space-based infrared system (SBIRS) geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) satellite, ahead of the satellite's planned launch.

Built by Lockheed Martin, the satellite will be launched from a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on 19 January.

Lockheed Martin Overhead Persistent Infrared systems mission area vice-president David Sheridan said: "The satellite's successful delivery and encapsulation closes out a manufacturing process that Lockheed Martin has continued to streamline with each build, driving significant schedule and cost reductions into the SBIRS programme.

"The addition of GEO Flight 3 into the constellation will greatly enhance SBIRS' ability to provide resilient, space-based infrared surveillance capabilities for decades to come."

"With its launch, the addition of GEO Flight 3 into the constellation will greatly enhance SBIRS' ability to provide resilient, space-based infrared surveillance capabilities for decades to come."

Equipped with scanning and staring sensors, the SBIRS GEO Flight 3 satellite is capable of collecting and transmitting infrared surveillance information to relay ground stations.

The satellite information will be used by the US military to detect missile launches, support ballistic missile defence, expand technical intelligence gathering and bolster situational awareness on the battlefield.

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By GlobalData

The next SBIRS satellite, GEO Flight 4, is expected to be launched later this year after undergoing final assembly, integration and test.

Additionally, production of SBIRS GEO-5 and GEO-6 is currently underway.

These satellites incorporate Lockheed Martin's new modernised A2100 spacecraft to reduce costs and cycle times while increasing the potential to incorporate future advanced sensor suites.