Lockheed Martin has started the certification testing of the Increment 2, the next-generation ground system, for the US Air Force’s (USAF) Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS).
The firm has achieved this milestone after successfully integrating significant software and hardware to the station.
Increment 2 is aimed to increase the ability of SBIRS to manage complex, emerging threats, while minimising USAF operations and maintenance costs.
It is expected to introduce a significant increase in performance capability across its four mission areas, namely missile warning, missile defence, battlespace awareness, and technical intelligence.
Lockheed Martin vice-president and SBIRS programme director David Sheridan said: "Increment 2 is on target to replace the legacy system by 2016 with significant performance improvements.
"Consolidating operations into a centralised SBIRS ground system will enable warfighters to more efficiently monitor worldwide threats and alert responders for immediate action."
Currently, the system operates from three different locations to manage the Defense Support Program (DSP), SBIRS Geosynchronous Orbit satellites and Highly Elliptical Orbit hosted sensor payloads.
Once operational, the Increment 2 ground station will consolidate all operational control under one primary mission control station (MCS) with a single backup control station.
In March this year, USAF Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) evaluated the SBIRS Increment 2 ground system.
During the test, the USAF’s 460th Operations Group used the new ground system to individually transmit and receive commands to and from each of the DSP and SBIRS assets on orbit from the MCS.
Image: An impression of space based infrared system high geosynchronous earth orbit satellite in orbit. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force.