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Air Force Certifies SBIRS Testing

By | September 8, 2008

      The Air Force certified readiness for dedicated operational utility evaluation and trial period operations of the first Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO-1) payload and associated ground system, Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] announced.

      SBIRS is to provide early warning of enemy missile launches, and simultaneously support other missions including missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness.

      Announced to be on-orbit in November 2006, the HEO-1 payload has been exceeding expectations during on-orbit tests necessary before beginning on-orbit operations for the user.

      As part of the operational utility evaluation, the system will enter trial period operations in which for the first time, live HEO data will be injected into the warfighters operational networks providing critical warning and intelligence data.

      This will culminate with the U.S. Strategic Command’s final certification of the HEO-1 payload and ground processing elements later this year when the HEO sensor and its data will be declared operationally proven and accepted.

      The SBIRS team is led by the Space Based Infrared Systems Wing at the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, Calif., is the SBIRS prime contractor.

      Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] unit Electronic Systems in Azusa, Calif., is the payload integrator. The Air Force Space Command operates the SBIRS system.

      The U.S. Air Force/Lockheed Martin-led team recently announced that the HEO-2 payload is now on-orbit and that its performance meets or exceeds specifications following early on-orbit checkout.

      In addition to detecting ballistic missile launches from polar regions, HEO payloads also have improved sensitivity needed to detect dimmer theater missiles and can be tasked to scan other areas of military interest. The HEO-2 payload is expected to begin operations by early next year.

      The HEO sensor provides an unprecedented infrared view of the battlefield that represents the first steps in an evolving battlespace awareness capability while also providing real-time data on missiles, aircraft and other events.

      The team also is progressing through key integration and test activities on the first geosynchronous orbit (GEO) spacecraft. Preparations are now underway to integrate the GEO-1 satellite’s solar arrays, deployable light shade, and thermal blankets in preparation for the start of acoustic and pyroshock testing when the integrated spacecraft will be subjected to the maximum sound and vibration levels expected during launch into orbit. Thermal vacuum testing of the completed GEO-1 space vehicle, which will validate its performance at temperature extremes greater than those expected during on-orbit operations, is on track for the middle of next year in preparation for launch in December 2009.

      As the SBIRS prime contractor, Lockheed provides program management, the GEO spacecraft bus, HEO and GEO payload pointing, and system engineering and integration. Lockheed also builds and maintains the SBIRS ground segment which has been operational since 2001.

      Northrop is the major subcontractor and provides the HEO and GEO payloads and participates in ground system development and systems engineering.

      Lockheed Martin’s current SBIRS contract includes the two HEO payloads now on-orbit, two GEO satellites, as well as ground-based assets to receive and process the infrared data. The program is in the early stages of adding additional GEO spacecraft and HEO payloads to the planned constellation.

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