The US Air Force's (USAF) third space-based infrared system (SBIRS) geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) satellite has delivered first images from its orbit.

The imagery was transmitted to the SBIRS ground station at Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado.

Lockheed Martin Overhead Persistent Infrared systems mission area vice-president David Sheridan said: "With the satellite successfully on orbit, we are now working to ensure GEO Flight 3 continues the outstanding performance trends demonstrated by its predecessors, including better-than-specified sensor pointing accuracy and the ability to detect dimmer targets than expected.”

The Lockheed Martin-built SBIRS GEO Flight 3 satellite is equipped with scanning and staring sensors and was launched on 20 January to support the USAF with accurate missile warning data.

The SBIRS GEO Flight 3 satellite was launched from a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Upon reaching its final geosynchronous orbit, which is approximately 22,000 miles above the equator, the satellite completed deployments of its sun-tracking solar arrays, antenna wing assemblies and light shade.

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It is capable of collecting and transmitting infrared surveillance information to ground stations.

"We are now working to ensure GEO Flight 3 continues the outstanding performance trends demonstrated by its predecessors."

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.

Lockheed said that the next satellite in the series, GEO Flight 4, will undergo final assembly, integration and test at the company's satellite production facility in Sunnyvale, California, ahead of the satellite's planned launch later this year.

The company will also update the fifth and sixth SBIRS satellites under a no-cost contract modification for the USAF.

Image: SBIRS GEO Flight 3 launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation.