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Lockheed Completes Software For Elliptical Orbit SBIRS

By | May 22, 2006

      Lockheed Martin Corp. completed development of software for the Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) Interim Operations satellite program of the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS), the company announced.

      SBIRS, an infrared asset providing early warning of missile launches and other capabilities, has two versions, the HEO and a geosynchronous version.

      Lockheed already provided the HEO payloads, and now aims to provide two GEO satellites, along with ground-based assets. The first GEO satellite launch is slated for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2008.

      While standing sentinel to spot enemy missile launches and missile defense generally, SBIRS also will be able to provide technical intelligence and battlespace characterization.

      SBIRS feeds data to the consolidated Mission Control Station at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Air Force crews in turn support both warfighter and homeland defense personnel, including aid for the war in Iraq and the global war on terrorism.

      SBIRS is one component of a multi-layered ballistic missile defense shield, a capability first proposed in the 1980s.

      Other components include ground-based, and sea-based, missiles that can intercept and knock down enemy missiles. Separately, the United States is developing a high-powered steerable airborne laser in a Boeing 747 that can fry an enemy missile.

      American strategists wish to have systems able to take out enemy missiles in all three phases of an enemy weapon trajectory: the early boost phase, the midcourse phase, and the terminal phase. Generally, hitting the enemy weapon earlier in its flight is better, because a miss there still leaves further chances for U.S. forces to achieve an intercept and kill.

      Major concerns about missile threats currently focus on North Korea, an isolated regime that has stated it possesses nuclear weapons. North Korea also is developing a long range Taepo Dong missile capable of reaching targets in North America. As well, Iran defiantly has begun a nuclear program, though the combative government claims the material is for peaceful use in electric generating plants.

      Also, on a tactical-missile level, China has aimed some 700 to 800 radar-guided missiles at waters separating the mainland from Taiwan, an island nation that China aims to invade unless Taiwan capitulates and submits to rule from Beijing. Washington counsels China not to use violent means to “re-unify” the island with the mainland, and stands committed to defend Taiwan if it’s attacked.

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