SBIRS satellite

The US Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) has evaluated the under development space based infrared system (SBIRS) Increment 2 ground system.

The three-day trial was conducted in collaboration with airmen from the 460th Operations Group. It demonstrated the system’s ability to individually transmit and receive commands to and from defence support programme, highly elliptical orbit, and geosynchronous orbit missile-warning satellites.

This testing represents a major risk reduction milestone as the US Air Force (USAF) intends to transition full missile-warning operations to the Increment 2 system in 2016, as reported by SpaceRef.

"The system will increase the warfighter’s ability to better characterise worldwide threats."

The Increment 2 ground system is scheduled to replace the current Increment 1 system, which entered service in 2001, and enables operators to control three satellite types through three separate ground software systems located at separate facilities.

Unlike its predecessor, the new system consolidates all operational control under one primary mission control station (MCS) with a single backup control station.

In addition, the system 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.

SMC Remote Sensing Systems Program Office director colonel Mike Guetlein said: "The system will increase the warfighter’s ability to better characterise worldwide threats, more accurately determine their launch point and impact points, and alert the COCOMs to an impending attack in time for them to respond appropriately."

The SBIRS satellites are manufactured by Lockheed Martin. They are designed to deliver timely and accurate warning of missile launches to the US President, defence secretary, combatant commanders, and other key decision makers, using a mix of geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) satellites, highly elliptical orbit (HEO) payloads, and related ground hardware and software.

The USAF initially contracted Lockheed for production of four HEO payloads and four GEO satellites, and followed it up with a $1.9bn award for production of GEO-5 and GEO-6 satellites in June 2014.

Image: An impression of space based infrared system high geosynchronous earth orbit satellite in orbit. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force.