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Second SBIRS payload completes early on-orbit checkout

Infrared satellite imagery from the Space Based Infrared Systems Highly Elliptical Orbit-2 sensor depicts a missile launch through the clouds. (U.S. Air Force Photo by: Air Force Space Command's Space-Based Infrared Systems Wing)

Infrared satellite imagery from the Space Based Infrared Systems Highly Elliptical Orbit-2 sensor depicts a missile launch through the clouds. (U.S. Air Force Photo by: Air Force Space Command's Space-Based Infrared Systems Wing)

Los Angeles Air Force Base -- The Air Force has successfully completed the early on-orbit checkout of the second space based infrared systems (SBIRS) sensor operating in a highly elliptical orbit (HEO) over the northern hemisphere. The second sensor is known as SBIRS HEO-2.

"The successful launch and checkout of HEO-2 is a further demonstration of the strong, positive momentum of the SBIRS team," said SMC Commander, Lt. Gen. Tom Sheridan. "This is a critical step in delivering a revolutionary new capability that will address some of the most serious threats to our nation."

The SBIRS HEO-2 payload provides performance that is exceeding specifications across the missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness mission areas. Compared to the legacy Defense Support Program (DSP) infrared sensor, SBIRS delivers about 10 times better sensitivity and up to five times faster revisit capability. SBIRS is revolutionizing space based infrared monitoring of the earth with its wide field of view, increased sensitivity, fast revisit rate, and persistent presence.

The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center's Space Based Infrared Systems Wing manages the SBIRS program to develop both the elliptical orbiting payloads and geosynchronous orbiting satellites and sensors as well as the ground systems to support mission operations. SMC is a unit of Air Force Space Command.

"All of our SBIRS team members can be congratulated and justifiably proud of their contributions to the success of this critical program and the significant impact it will have on our national security," said SMC's Space Based Infrared Systems Wing Commander, Col. Roger Teague. "These payloads are delivering remarkable on-orbit capability and give us confidence as we prepare for the first geosynchronous satellite launch."

The SBIRS sensor effectively detects heat or hot gasses from missiles and other man-made objects, terrestrial events like volcanic eruptions and wildfires, and weather data from clouds and storms. The sensor is also providing information on static sources of infrared energy such as the flaring of methane gas from oil wells and pipelines.

SBIRS HEO is designed to use advanced space sensors and ground systems to provide infrared (heat signature) information from space. The highly elliptical orbiting sensors cover the northern hemisphere for approximately 12 hours a day from egg shaped elliptical orbits reaching 35,000 kilometers above the North Pole.

In November 2006, the Air Force announced the successful checkout of the HEO-1 sensor. The extraordinary efforts of the Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Aerospace and government team enabled the SBIRS Wing to successfully transition operations of the first HEO payload to the 11th Space Warning Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado in November 2007. By September 2008, alerts from the HEO-1 sensor will be incorporated into the system providing Defense Support Program messaging to warfighters. The HEO-2 sensor will continue engineering testing over several months leading to full operational use of the payload by Air Force Space Command.

Media representatives requesting more information regarding this issue should send an email to: smcpa.media@losangeles.af.mil and include your deadline and publication date.