Library Fact Sheets
INFRARED SPACE SYSTEMS DIRECTORATE|
Printable Fact Sheet
The Space Based Infrared Systems program will provide the nation with critical missile defense and warning capability well into the 21st century. SBIRS is one of Air Force Space Command's highest priority space systems. SBIRS is the continuation of the stalwart Defense Support Program (DSP) constellation. SBIRS and DSP support four mission areas: missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence and battle-space awareness.
DSP: DECADES OF SUCCESS PROVIDES A SOLID FOUNDATION
For more than 39 years the Defense Support Program, consisting of satellites in geosynchronous earth orbit, has supported Integrated Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment to the President and Secretary of Defense. For well over a decade DSP has provided theater commanders with similar missile warning notifications, first through the Attack and Launch Early Reporting to Theater system and most recently via the SBIRS Mission Control Station. Additionally, DSP hosted sensors provide alerts of nuclear detonation detection. All DSP satellites have been launched and are supporting the Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) mission area.
MISSION CONTROL STATION
The first step toward a more robust infrared capability in space was taken Dec. 18, 2001 when the Mission Control Station (MCS) at Buckley AFB, Colo., was declared initial operationally capable (IOC). The MCS consolidates command and control and data processing elements from dispersed legacy systems into a consolidated modern peacetime facility, processing the entire infrared data in a fused manner. The MCS is designed to accommodate the new capability provided by the SBIRS constellation.
SBIRS features a mix of geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) satellites, payloads in highly elliptical earth orbit (HEO), and associated ground hardware and software. SBIRS offers improved sensor flexibility and sensitivity compared to DSP. Sensors will cover short-wave infrared like its predecessor, expanded mid-wave infrared and see-to-the-ground bands allowing it to perform a broader set of missions as compared to DSP. Both HEO payloads and associated ground systems have been certified for Integrated Tactical Warning/Attack Assessment (ITW/AA) operations. HEO - 1 has also been certified by the National Geospatial -Intelligence Agency (NGA) for use in Technical Intelligence. The first GEO satellite is expected to launch in fiscal year 2011.
The SBIRS constellation supports the warfighter in four distinct mission areas:
Missile Warning (MW)
Missile Defense (MD)
Technical Intelligence (TI)
Battle Space Awareness (BA).
SATELLITE AND SENSOR DESCRIPTION
SBIRS GEO spacecraft will be a stabilized platform with a scanning sensor and a staring sensor. Sensor pointing will be accomplished with pointing mirrors in front of the telescopes.
The GEO scanning sensor will provide a shorter revisit time than that of DSP over its full field of view, while the staring sensor will be used for step-stare or dedicated stare operations over smaller geographic areas.
The GEO staring sensor has high agility to rapidly stare at one earth location and then move to other locations, with improved sensitivity compared to DSP. Several areas can be monitored by the staring sensor with revisit times significantly smaller than that of DSP.
The SBIRS HEO sensor is a scanning sensor similar to the GEO scanner but the sensor pointing is performed by slewing the full telescope on a gimbal. SBIRS GEO and HEO sensor raw unprocessed data will be down-linked to the ground, so that the same radiometric scene observed in space will be available on the ground.
SBIRS GROUND SEGMENT
The SBIRS Ground Segment is developed and fielded in blocks of capabilities. It will consist of three major components: two fixed operational sites, relay ground stations that send data back to the fixed sites, and associated communications links.
The SBIRS ground segment will provide capabilities to support transition, launch, and mission operations for both the GEO satellites and HEO sensors, and support on-orbit operations for the DSP satellites.
Relay Ground Stations, located around the world, receive data from the satellites and forward it to the Mission Control Station at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. MCS software generates launch reports that include missile type; launch point, time and azimuth; and predicted impact point. Data used from multiple satellites is fused to improve reports.
The MCS operates the DSP satellites today and will have the capability to operate the SBIRS payloads and spacecraft from the consolidated location in the future. The MCS marked the first step in the deployment of SBIRS, and was declared operational in 2001.