Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Air Force Launches First Dedicated SBIRS Satellite

With the intention of meeting today’s surveillance needs, the Air Force successfully launched its first Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) geosynchronous missile warning satellite on Saturday, May 7, 2011, aboard an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

The SBIRS GEO-1 is the most technologically advanced military infrared satellite ever developed and will deliver superior missile warning capabilities than its predecessors, while simultaneously enhancing the country’s ability to detect, track and counter enemy missiles, as well as improve technical intelligence gathering.

With highly sophisticated scanning and staring sensors, this new system will deliver improved infrared sensitivity and enhance early warning of missile launches around the globe, supporting the nation's ballistic missile defense system. The scanning sensor will provide a wide area surveillance of missile launches and natural phenomena across the earth, while the staring sensor will be used to observe smaller areas of interest with heightened sensitivity.

Once the satellite reaches geosynchronous orbit, it will begin a six-month check out and calibration phase before it is expected to begin delivering usable data to the tactical intelligence community.

As ballistic missiles become more and more available around the world, our missile defense abilities need to be progressive. If successful, this $1.3 billion satellite will replace the current Defense Support Program satellites, which has declined in effectiveness as its abilities to collect intelligence on non-state actors had become severely limited in this day and age, according to military analysts.

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