Thursday, May 12, 2011

Successfully launched satellite ushers in new era of overhead surveillance

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (AFNS) -- An Air Force team successfully launched the first Space Based Infrared System geosynchronous satellite aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle May 7. The GEO-1 satellite will provide missile warning, missile defense, battlespace awareness and technical intelligence products to deployed warfighters, national leaders and U.S. allies.

Spacecraft separation from the booster occurred approximately 43 minutes after launch. Following separation, the spacecraft began a series of orbit maneuvers to propel it to geosynchronous orbit. Once on-orbit, engineers will deploy the satellite's solar arrays and antennas, then complete checkout and tests in preparation for operational use.

"The SBIRS team stands tall today," said Col. Roger Teague, the director of SMC's Infrared Space Systems Directorate. "This launch success represents years of dedication and hard work by a broad team of government and industry professionals. We look forward to GEO-1 soon joining our constellation of overhead persistent infrared satellites and providing critical national security space capabilities."

The launch of SBIRS GEO-1 ushers in a new era in overhead surveillance, and GEO-1 will deliver unprecedented global, persistent and taskable infrared surveillance protecting the nation and allies for years to come, said Col. Scott Larrimore, the chief of the SBIRS Space Systems Division.

"This day is a proud moment for our team," he said. "Our mission is just beginning, and we look forward to developing new capabilities that will expand the overhead persistent infrared missions to meet global emerging threats."

The launch featured an Atlas V 401-configured rocket, which was the 26th launch of the Atlas V. The 401 configuration consists of a 4-meter payload fairing and a single-engine Centaur upper stage. The Atlas V is one of the two rockets developed as part of the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, or EELV, program.

"The successful launch of the SBIRS mission today was a significant accomplishment for our nation," said Col. Ron Fortson, the mission director and chief of EELV Generation and Operations Division. "I am extremely proud of the integrated government and contractor team for the hard work and dedication put forth in achieving this success."

Jeff Smith, Lockheed Martin's vice president and SBIRS program director, reinforced the value of the integrated effort of the Air Force and contractor team.

"We understand the importance of the SBIRS mission and are proud to partner with the U.S. Air Force on this critical program," he said. "Throughout the development of this first-of-its-kind satellite, the SBIRS team has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to operational excellence."