• Lockheed Martin's SBIRS GEO-5 satellite is tested in a vacuum chamber at the company's Sunnyvale, California, production facility in April. The U.S. Space Force has ruled that the satellite is now ready for launching in 2021. Credit: Lockheed Martin
     Lockheed Martin's SBIRS GEO-5 satellite is tested in a vacuum chamber at the company's Sunnyvale, California, production facility in April. The U.S. Space Force has ruled that the satellite is now ready for launching in 2021. Credit: Lockheed Martin
  • The U.S. Space Force certified as ready the fifth Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite (SBIRS GEO-5). The satellite will be launched in 2021. Credit: Lockheed Martin
     The U.S. Space Force certified as ready the fifth Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite (SBIRS GEO-5). The satellite will be launched in 2021. Credit: Lockheed Martin

High-Priority Satellite is Ready for Launch

December 2, 2020
Posted by Kimberly Underwood
E-mail About the Author

The U.S. Space Force’s so-called SBIRS GEO-5 infrared surveillance satellite was finished in record time.


The fifth Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite, known as SBIRS GEO-5, is ready for launch in 2021. The U.S. Space Force deemed complete the high priority program satellite, which will provide worldwide missile warning capability to the U.S. military. The service’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) Production Corps at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, and industry partner Lockheed Martin Space, in Sunnyvale, California, prepared the important warning system in record time.

“SBIRS’ role as an ever-present, on-orbit guardian against global ballistic missile threats has never been more critical,” said Tom McCormick, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) Systems. “In 2019 alone, SBIRS detected nearly one thousand missile launches, which is about a two-fold increase in two years.”

In addition, SBIRS GEO-5 will be the first military satellite to employ the company’s new modular and modernized satellite bus, the LM 2100. Lockheed Martin reports that the vehicle features fast satellite operations; greater resiliency and cyber-hardening; enhanced spacecraft power, propulsion and electronics; common components and procedures to streamline manufacturing; and a flexible design that reduces the cost to incorporate future, modernized sensor suites. The next satellite in the series, SBIRS GEO-6, planned for launch in 2022, also is being built using the new bus design.

“Both SBIRS GEO-5 and GEO-6 are slated to join the U.S. Space Force’s constellation of missile warning satellites, equipped with powerful scanning and staring infrared surveillance sensors, which protect our nation 24-7,” a Lockheed spokesperson stated. “These sensors collect data that allow the U.S. military to detect missile launches, support ballistic missile defense, expand technical intelligence gathering and bolster situational awareness on the battlefield.”

In addition, the LM 2100 space vehicle will serve as the baseline for three Next Gen OPIR Block 0 GEO satellites expected to launch starting in 2025, as well as the future GPS III follow on satellites expected to launch in 2026, the company indicated.

Completed on October 29 and recently certified by SMC, SBIRS GEO-5 was completed in approximately five years, which is quite a feat—but just in time to address emerging threats.

“Completing the production of a complex missile-warning satellite during the challenging COVID environment is a huge accomplishment and is a testament to Lockheed Martin’s professionalism and dedication to the security of our Nation,” said Capt. Alec Cook, USAF, SMC’s SBIRS GEO-5/6 Assembly, Test, and Launch Operations lead.

SMC leads the SBIRS team, which includes Lockheed as the prime contractor and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, based in Azusa, California, as the payload integrator.

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