USAF missile-warning satellite launches, on its way to final orbit
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. Following a successful launch on January 20, the third U.S. Air Force Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO satellite acquired the correct signals and is responding to commands as planned; signal acquisition occurred approximately 37 minutes after liftoff.
The satellite -- built by Lockheed Martin and with Northrop Grumman as the payload integrator -- is equipped with powerful scanning and staring sensors that collect and transmit infrared surveillance information to ground stations. This information is used by the U.S. military to detect missile launches, support ballistic-missile defense, expand technical intelligence gathering, and bolster situational awareness on the battlefield. The satellite will begin transitioning to its final location in geosynchronous orbit, approximately 22,000 miles above the Earth. Mission control will then deploy the satellite's solar arrays, light shade, and antennas as part of early on-orbit testing.
The SBIRS satellite, one in a constellation that is expected to number six over the next several years, was delivered to space aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket.