Missile Defense Satellite Transmits Initial Picture

The first of four satellites to be deployed for the planned U.S. Space-Based Infrared System last month transmitted its initial infrared photographic data to ground operators, project contractor Lockheed Martin said on Thursday (see GSN, May 9).

The orbiting craft -- equipped with separate sensors for focused and broad-range viewing -- is in preliminary trials and operating as intended, the company said in a press release. The completed SBIRS satellite network is expected to improve the nation's ability to detect, track and counter potential enemy missiles.

“SBIRS GEO-1 is performing flawlessly thus far, and the first image sent from the satellite is outstanding,” Jeff Smith, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Overhead Persistent Infrared mission area, said in released remarks. “We are focused on executing an efficient and thorough checkout of the spacecraft and ultimately delivering unprecedented infrared surveillance capabilities to our nation" (Lockheed Martin release, July 7).

Meanwhile, the U.S. Space Tracking and Surveillance System's demonstration orbiters succeeded in monitoring the midcourse flight path of a medium-range ballistic missile target launched in a test, the Missile Defense Agency announced. A Standard Missile 3 interceptor shot down the missile, United Press International quoted the Pentagon office as saying.

"This event showed the flexibility of the STSS satellites," Doug Young, missile defense and warning vice president for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector, said in a statement. "They were cued remotely by forward-based radar in the Command, Control, Battle Management and Communications system, which is a key capability for a future operational constellation.

"The event also provided significant risk reduction for a follow-on, operational system. It closely emulated a large part of the communication chain that would be used in an operational engagement," Young said (United Press International, July 7).

July 8, 2011
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The first of four satellites to be deployed for the planned U.S. Space-Based Infrared System last month transmitted its initial infrared photographic data to ground operators, project contractor Lockheed Martin said on Thursday (see GSN, May 9).