The US Air Force (USAF) has successfully launched the second Lockheed Martin-built geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO-2) space-based infrared system (SBIRS) satellite aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, US.
A technologically advanced infrared surveillance spacecraft, SBIRS GEO-2 is expected to improve the nation’s missile warning capabilities, as well as enhance defence, technical intelligence and battlefield awareness.
Lockheed Martin Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) mission area vice president Jeff Smith said the company collaborated with USAF on the SBIRS programme to help deliver reliable infrared surveillance capabilities for strategic and tactical users across the defence and intelligence community.
Northrop Grumman Military and Civil Space business area vice president Dr. Stephen Toner added: "Today’s successful launch of the GEO-2 satellite marks another milestone in the evolution of infrared surveillance from space."
Equipped with advanced scanning and starring sensors, the satellite is capable of offering enhanced infrared sensitivity and reducing area revisit times compared to legacy constellation.
Wide area surveillance of missile launches and natural phenomena across the earth will be provided by scanning sensor, whereas the staring sensor will enable observation of smaller areas of interest with superior sensitivity.
SBIRS satellites are designed to deliver timely and accurate warnings for missile launches to the US Government, using a mixture of four GEO satellites, two highly elliptical earth (HEO) payloads and associated ground hardware and software.
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, while the GEO-3 and GEO-4 are currently under different development stages.
Image: The GEO-2 space-based infrared system satellite lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, US. Photo courtesy of © 2013 Lockheed Martin Corporation.