Spaceflight Insider

Next USAF’s SBIRS missile warning satellite shipped to Cape for October launch

SBIRS GEO 4 (SBIRS 3) on Mass CG stand. Lockheed Martin photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider

SBIRS GEO 4 (SBIRS 3). (Click to enlarge) Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The United States Air Force’s next Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellite was delivered to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 2, 2016, in preparation for its trip to orbit next year. The spacecraft will now be prepared to fly atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket from the Cape’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida.

Produced by Lockheed Martin, the SBIRS GEO 3 spacecraft was constructed at the company’s Sunnyvale, California, facility. It was then transported via a C-5 “Galaxy” aircraft from Moffett Federal Air Field to Cape Canaveral.

“SBIRS GEO satellites are our nation’s missile warning sentinels and are critical assets to the U.S. military’s continually evolving mission,” said the Vice President of Lockheed Martin’s Overhead Persistent Infrared systems, David Sheridan. “With GEO Flight 3’s successful testing and delivery to the launch site, we’re expanding the military’s ability to receive timely, reliable and accurate missile warning and infrared surveillance information.”

If things continue to go as plan, SBIRS GEO Flight 4, is, at present, in storage and is slated to begin testing, final assembly, and integration in preparation for a launch currently planned for 2017. Meanwhile, SBIRS GEO-5 and 6 are currently being constructed. The first SBIRS satellite was launched on May 7, 2011, the second followed the first to orbit on March 18, 2013.

SBIRS is being deployed so as to increase the U.S. military’s ability to detect enemy missile launches and provide other tactical services. The SBIRS GEO satellites are based on the A2100 bus.

Comprised of a “system of systems” SBIRS includes satellites placed in GEO (which includes sensors that are hosted on satellites in highly elliptical orbit as well as ground-based assets. Low-Earth orbit satellites were also planned; however, this has been moved to the Space Tacking and Surveillance Program.

As is the case with most every space venture, no one entity is solely responsible for the development and fielding of orbital assets. In the case of SBIRS GEO, the team includes the U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. Meanwhile, the 460th Space Wing will operate SBIRS.



Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

⚠ Commenting Rules

Post Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *