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Countdown Under way for SBIRS GEO-1

Countdown procedures are well under way for the launch of a first-of-its kind spacecraft that will utilize sophisticated scanning and staring sensors to provide significantly improved capabilities for tomorrow’s warfighters. With program representatives pointing to “the dawn of a new era in overhead persistent surveillance,” the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO-1 spacecraft is set for liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Fla., aboard an Atlas V rocket on May 6.

The system will be launched by United Launch Alliance, LLC, a 50/50 joint venture owned by Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Company.

Brig. Gen. (sel) Roger Teague, director of Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center Infrared Systems Directorate at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., pointed to the significance of the pending milestone event during a pre-launch media teleconference on April 26.

SBIRS Architecture

Imagery capturing SBIR GEO-1’s capabilities and connectivity with other assets. LMCO Imagery

“GEO-1 will provide our nation with significantly improved missile warning capabilities and support a number of other critical missions simultaneously, including missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence, and battlespace awareness,” Teague said.

Pointing to program events and progress over the past year, Teague said, “This program has faced and overcome a number of challenges in the past. And we have done so with dedication, pride, commitment and drive by the entire SBIRS team, which includes members of the United States Air Force, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and The Aerospace Corporation. The SBIRS team is nearly 9700 members strong across 23 different states…As we field this important system we remain focused on the important job at hand: Delivering the SBIRS system for our warfighters, our nation and our allies.”

Noting that the satellite was shipped on March 2, Teague said that the processing to date has gone “very smoothly,” leading to completion of a successful mission dress rehearsal on the morning of April 26.

“Launch is only the beginning of our GEO-1 journey,” he added. “After launch there will be early orbit test activities, which will include liquid apogee engine burns, deployment of the solar arrays, light shade and antenna wings.”

“In approximately six months we anticipate beginning to be able to provide data to the technical intelligence community,” he said. “And some 17 months later we anticipate USSTRATCOM certification for integrated theater warning assessment operations. We are very proud to know that this system will soon provide our warfighters, the nation and our allies with the 24 x 7 persistent infrared surveillance capabilities we know that we need.”

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...