USAF SBIRS GEO-4 missile warning satellite passes operational testing

11 June 2019 (Last Updated June 11th, 2019 14:27)

The US Air Force’s (USAF) Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Geosynchronous Earth Orbit missile warning satellite (GEO-4) has achieved operational acceptance.

USAF SBIRS GEO-4 missile warning satellite passes operational testing
The SBIRS GEO Flight-4 satellite was launched on board a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 411 booster in January last year. Credit: Lockheed Martin Corporation.

The US Air Force’s (USAF) Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Geosynchronous Earth Orbit missile warning satellite (GEO-4) has achieved operational acceptance.

Built by Lockheed Martin, the satellite was launched on board a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 411 booster in January last year.

The US Air Force Space Command declared operational acceptance after the completion of operational testing and satisfactory on-orbit performance.

SBIRS GEO-4 is transmitting data to the 460th Space Wing-operated Mission Control Station, located at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado.

A series of planned Liquid Apogee Engine transfer orbit manoeuvres were performed to place the spacecraft into its intended orbit.

GEO-4 then deployed its light shade, solar array wing assemblies, and antenna wing assemblies to begin on-orbit testing.

The beginning of checkout activities led to a ‘tuned and calibrated payload’ ready for troop use.

USAF overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) satellite systems chief colonel Ricky Hunt said: “Successful completion of operational testing and on-orbit performance resulted in airforce space command operationally accepting the SBIRS GEO-4 satellite into the missile warning architecture to sustain war-winning capabilities for our nation.

“This milestone achievement is a true testament to the years of hard work put in by the combined SBIRS Government-Contractor team, past and present.”

The satellite is the latest entrant in the airforce’s orbiting missile warning constellation. It possesses powerful scanning and staring infrared surveillance sensors capable of providing data to the US military to detect missile launches and supporting the ballistic missile defence system.

The data can also be used to expand technical intelligence gathering and strengthen situational awareness for troops on the battlefield.

SBIRS GEO-4 joined SBIRS GEO Flights 1, 2 and 3, which were launched in 2011, 2013 and 2017 respectively.

The addition of the fourth satellite allows SBIRS to provide global coverage. The USAF is replacing missile warning and missile detection satellites that have been in service for more than 45 years.