The US Space Force’s first modernized missile defense satellite has completed almost two months of harsh simulated space environmental testing.
On June 9, the US Space Force’s fifth Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite (SBIRS GEO-5) completed thermal vacuum testing at Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale, California satellite manufacturing facility.
Completing the testing was a significant milestone for the first military space satellite to be built on one of Lockheed Martin’s modernized LM 2100 satellite buses. During TVAC testing, the satellite faced waves of heat and cold in a depressurized atmosphere similar to the drastic environmental changes experienced in space.
“The completion of TVAC can be attributed to a tremendous effort from the Air Force, Lockheed Martin, Aerospace Corporation, and supporting contractor teams,” said Tucker White, SBIRS GEO-5 Assembly, Test, and Launch Operations Lead from the Government Program Office. “The teams worked around the clock and finished on schedule to their original projection. This test phase is vital to any space vehicle test regime and takes GEO-5 one step closer to providing enhanced missile detection to our warfighters.”
SBIRS GEO-5 will join the Space Force’s constellation of missile warning satellites equipped, with scanning and staring infrared surveillance sensors. These sensors collect data that allow the US military to detect missile launches, support ballistic missile defense, expand technical intelligence gathering and bolster situational awareness on the battlefield.
SBIRS GEO-5 is the first of two new SBIRS missile defense satellites and the fourth satellite built on Lockheed Martin’s new, modernized LM 2100 satellite bus.
According to Lockheed Martin, the satellite bus features 26 improvements that add more power and flexibility to the A2100 satellite platform. It also increases satellite resiliency by eliminating older components and using modern electronics to add new capability.
“As we build more military LM 2100 satellites, we gain schedule efficiencies both from suppliers and the ability to enable concurrent bus and payload testing, which shortens the single line manufacturing flow,” Tom McCormick, vice president for overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) missions at Lockheed Martin Space, explained.
LM 2100 is currently slated to be the baseline bus of SBIRS GEO-5, and SBIRS GEO-6, expected to be launched in 2021 and 2022 respectively; three next next generation overhead persistent infrared system (Next Gen OPIR) block 0 GEO satellites expecting to launch starting in 2025; and the future GPS III follow on (GPS IIIF) satellites, which are expected to launch starting in 2026.
Upgraded SBIRS Ground
The SBIRS ground control system has had significant upgrades. SBIRS receives and processes large amounts of data from the global coverage of the satellites’ powerful sensors and converts this data into actionable reports for defense, intelligence and civil applications.
In August 2019, the US Air Force operationally accepted Lockheed Martin’s Block 20 upgrade to the SBIRS ground control system, which improves its overall performance allowing better mission planning and processing for the full constellation, as well as enhanced cyber security defenses.
The upgrade also formally completed SBIRS’ engineering & manufacturing development (EMD) Phase. This let the Air Force transition their focus to SBIRS’ operations and sustainment, as well as further enhanced capabilities that will be offered by the Next Gen OPIR system, and the Future Operational Resilient Ground Evolution (FORGE) ground system.
The SBIRS development team is led by the Production Corps, Geosynchronous Earth Orbit Division, at the US Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California. Lockheed Martin Space, Sunnyvale, California, is the SBIRS prime contractor, with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Azusa, California, as the payload integrator.