The Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit – Satellite #5 (SBIRS GEO-5) was formally transferred from Space Systems Command to Space Operations Command on Feb. 4, 2022 during an Operational Acceptance ceremony.
“The addition of the SBIRS GEO-5 satellite will ensure that the United States will continue to deliver critical missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness data to the warfighter for years to come, maintaining a key strategic advantage that only our space assets can provide,” said Cordell DeLaPena, Jr., Program Executive Officer for Space Production at SSC.
The Space Delta 4’s 2nd Space Warning Squadron (2 SWS) at Buckley Space Force Base, Colo., is now operating the satellite and all systems are performing nominally. SBIRS GEO-5 is the fifth of six SBIRS GEO satellites delivered by Space Systems Command and Lockheed Martin with SBIRS GEO-6 currently manifested for a summer 2022 launch.
SBIRS GEO-5, built by Lockheed Martin, launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on May 18, 2021. This marked the first military satellite launch of Lockheed Martin’s LM2100 Combat Buso. SBIRS GEO-5’s LM2100 Combat Buso is an enhanced space vehicle that provides even greater resiliency and cyber-hardening against growing threats, improved spacecraft power, propulsion and electronics, common components and procedures to streamline manufacturing, as well as flexible design that reduces the cost to incorporate future, modernized sensor suites.
Upon separation from the Atlas V’s Centaur upper-stage, satellite operations personnel began a series of planned transfer orbit maneuvers to place the satellite into its final orbit. SBIRS GEO-5 reached its intended orbit and began checkout activities of the satellite’s light shade, solar arrays, and antennas. Once SSC and Lockheed Martin completed checkout activities, the teams tuned and calibrated the payload sensors and readied them for warfighter use.
“SBIRS GEO-5 exceeded performance expectations during on-orbit testing,” said Michael Corriea, Lockheed Martin OPIR Mission Area Vice President. “With the declaration of operational acceptance less than a year from launch, the LM 2100-built GEO-5 completed all on-orbit testing and analysis 40 percent faster compared to GEO-1 through GEO-4 average testing times.”
Due to the extensive process of ensuring the mission payload’s readiness for warfighter use, various teams across the industry were crucial in the months leading up to operational acceptance.
“The team has done an outstanding job in delivering to the warfighter the critical capabilities while always pushing to improve the testing process and get these sensors operational,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Laughton, Materiel Leader for SBIRS GEO-5/6 Production. “This milestone is a huge accomplishment and would not be possible without our industry partners, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, and our military teammates at SSC, Space Delta 4 and 2 SWS working diligently to get SBIRS GEO-5 into the hands of the warfighter.”
Since replacing the Defense Support Program’s 45-year-old missile warning and missile detection satellites with SBIRS GEO-5 and other on-orbit GEO and Highly Elliptical Orbit sensors, the U.S. Department of Defense has seen a surge in adversarial threats, including missile launches from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.
SBIRS satellites are the first line of defense, providing early warning, launch detection, and notifications to defense officials and theater personnel. On Jan. 7, 2020, the SBIRS constellation detected the launch of over one dozen ballistic missiles by Iran as retaliation for the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani. Space Force operators at 2 SWS successfully detected the launch and provided early warning for personnel at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq to seek shelter. As a result, United States and coalition troops sustained zero casualties and only minor infrastructure damage.
SSC is the U.S. Space Force field command responsible for rapidly identifying, prototyping and fielding resilient space capabilities for joint warfighters. SSC delivers sustainable joint space warfighting capabilities to defend the nation and its allies while disrupting adversaries in the contested space domain. SSC mission areas include launch acquisition and operations; space domain awareness; positioning, navigation and timing; missile warning; satellite communication; and cross-mission ground, command and control and data.