Launched in January, SBIRS GEO-3 reaches operational status
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — GEO-3, the latest Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite in the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) constellation, has achieved operational acceptance from the U.S. Air Force Space Command.
This is the fourth satellite in the constellation to begin active operations. GEO-3 was launched Jan. 19, 2018 atop an Atlas V 411 booster at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Before declaring the satellite operational, several activities needed to be conducted in orbit to verify spacecraft integrity and operation. Once GEO-3 reached its designated orbit the satellites light shade, solar panel arrays and antenna wing assemblies were deployed. Once those were completed, sensor testing began. Upon completion of the testing the vehicle was deemed ready for operation as a “tuned and calibrated payload ready for warfighter use,” according to the official Air Force press release on the status of the spacecraft.
“The achievement of operational acceptance means the spacecraft’s infrared sensors are now considered fully operational and ready for warfighters,” said Lt Col Leroy Brown, Jr., program manager for SBIRS GEO-3, in a press release. “This is a huge win for the combined Program Office, Lockheed Martin Space, and Northrop Grumman team, as well as, the military, civilian, and civil users of the infrared data the SBIRS satellite constellation provides.”
GEO-3 joins the other working satellites GEO-1, GEO-2, and GEO-4 already in orbit. GEO-4 was launched ahead of GEO-3 in 2017 to avoid placing the brand new GEO-4 into storage. Two more satellites, GEO-5 and GEO-6, will complete the SBIRS constellation.
SBIR is designed to replace the earlier Defense Support Program (DSP). Begun 45 years ago, the DSP provided missile warning and detection. SBIR brings new capabilities to missile launch detection that were not possible under the DSP, including new scanning sensors designed to locate missiles in the early stages of flight. For the later stages of a missile’s flight, new tracking sensors monitor the missile and any decoys, debris, or other objects. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the SBIRS program. Northrop Grumman provides payload integration.
Joe Latrell is a life-long avid space enthusiast having created his own rocket company in Roswell, NM in addition to other consumer space endeavors. He continues to design, build and launch his own rockets and has a passion to see the next generation excited about the opportunities of space exploration. Joe lends his experiences from the corporate and small business arenas to organizations such as Teachers In Space, Inc. He is also actively engaged in his church investing his many skills to assist this and other non-profit endeavors.