The full U.S. House of Representatives passed a defense spending bill July 19 that would increase the U.S. Air Force’s proposed missile warning satellite budget to make one of the system’s advanced capabilities available earlier than planned.
In its markup of the 2013 Pentagon spending bill, the House Appropriations Committee allocated $516 million to the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS), $68 million more than the Air Force requested. Most of the increase would go toward work on the ground systems that process data from the staring sensors on the satellites. The full House passed the bill by a vote of 326-90.
Each geosynchronous-orbiting SBIRS satellite has a scanning sensor that covers large swaths of territory in a sweeping motion and a staring sensor that is trained on smaller areas of interest. The staring sensor provides more-immediate notification and analysis of missile launches.
The first SBIRS satellite was launched in May 2011 but the Air Force does not expect to fully exploit the system’s staring sensors until 2016 owing to a decision to siphon funds intended for the ground system to keep the space segment on track.