SBIRS Satellite Opens Its Eyes

The Air Force and its industry partners have activated the infrared sensor payload on GEO-1, the first Space Based Infrared System geosynchronous satellite, moving the spacecraft one step closer to standing on-orbit watch for missile launches back on Earth. USAF space officials said tests are now underway to calibrate and characterize the GEO-1 payload for certification and operations. The payload has both a scanning sensor and a separate, independently steerable staring sensor. “We are tremendously proud of Team SBIRS for their superb efforts to initialize the Air Force’s newest, most capable infrared payload,” said Col. Mike Noble, deputy director of the Infrared Space Systems Directorate, at Los Angeles AFB, Calif., in a release. An Atlas V launch vehicle carried GEO-1 into space on May 7 from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. The spacecraft has been fully deployed and is functioning normally in its geosynchronous perch. Spacecraft bus and payload tests will continue in parallel to characterize and tune the integrated GEO system in preparation for operational acceptance and system certification next year, said the officials. Lockheed Martin is the SBIRS prime contractor; Northrop Grumman supplied GEO-1’s payload.