from StratRisks.com: The United States’ futuristic missile alert system operating from
outer space moved forward with Lockheed Martin’s delivery of the third
“highly elliptical earth orbit” satellite payload system.
A further fourth HEO is due to complete the USAF order, which will be
yet another step toward initiating the Space Based Infrared System.
SBIRS is designed to give the U.S. military a global capability to
detect and monitor a ballistic missile launch from anywhere.
“The SBIRS program delivers timely, reliable and accurate missile
warning and infrared surveillance information to the President of the
United States, the Secretary of Defense, combatant commanders, the
intelligence community and other key decision makers,” Lockheed Martin
The aerospace manufacturer said the system, in addition to enhancing
global missile launch detection capability, would support the ballistic
missile defense system, expand technical intelligence gathering capacity
and bolster situational awareness for fighters on a battlefield.
SBIRS will include what Lockheed Martin calls “a resilient mix of
satellites” in geosynchronous earth orbit, hosted payloads in HEO orbit
and ground hardware and software.
As an integrated system it will support multiple missions
simultaneously and provide robust performance with persistent coverage
“Our full attention is now on completing HEO 4 and GEOs 3 and 4,”
Jeff Smith, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Overhead Persistent
Infrared mission area.” The focus, he said, was on “delivering
unprecedented infrared surveillance capabilities to our warfighters.”
SBIRS includes four HEO payloads, four GEO satellites, and ground
assets to receive, process and disseminate the infrared mission data.
The first two HEO payloads were delivered in 2004 and 2005 and have
provided mission performance surpassing specifications. Prior to its
delivery, the HEO 3 payload successfully completed rigorous
environmental and functional testing to demonstrate performance in
family with HEOs 1 and 2.
“This is the third SBIRS HEO payload delivery and the first from the
SBIRS Follow On Production Program,” said Steve Toner, vice
president of Northrop Grumman’s Military and Civil Space business unit.
“Its sensor will enhance the high quality of information being provided
to our warfighters by the SBIRS constellation.”
Air Force Space Command declared GEO 1 operational May 17 and
recommended Integrated Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment
certification of the asset to the U.S. Strategic Command.
The second USAF SBIRS GEO satellite was launched May 19 and has been
delivering “outstanding infrared data as part of on-orbit
testing.” Lockheed Martin has also received contracts to procure
long-lead items for GEOs 5 and 6.
The new satellites will replace the existing Defense Support Program
fleet, Defense Industry Daily said on its website. The new satellites’
infrared sensors have thrice the sensitivity of DSP and twice the
revisit rate, while providing better persistent coverage.
Unfortunately, it said, the program has been beset by massive cost
overruns on the order of 400 percent, technical challenges that continue
to present problems and uncertainties about performance.
Despite those problems USAF is proceeding with the program and has
terminated potential alternatives and supplements, Defense Industry