Hosted Infrared Sensor Observed NASA Launch

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WASHINGTON — An experimental U.S. Air Force missile warning sensor hosted aboard a commercial telecommunications satellite successfully observed the Oct. 28 launch of a NASA weather and climate research satellite in an early test of its capabilities, the service said Nov. 4.

The Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload, or CHIRP, was  launched Sept. 21 aboard the SES-2 communications satellite owned by SES of Luxembourg. The Air Force paid SES to host the sensor, which was built by McLean, Va.-based SAIC and integrated with the SES-2 satellite by manufacturer Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va.

In a written response to a Space News query, Air Force spokeswoman Tina Greer confirmed that the CHIRP successfully collected data as planned on the launch of NASA’s NPP satellite aboard a Delta 2 rocket. “However, in order to protect information relative to sensor performance, we cannot comment on the specifics of the detection,” she said.

In a press release issued Nov. 3, the Air Force said CHIRP had successfully completed initial in-orbit testing but made no mention of the NPP launch, which took place during the early morning hours from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. “Initial on-orbit testing included the actions necessary to initialize the CHIRP payload and complete functional check out. The payload is performing nominally and providing valuable on-orbit performance data to guide development of future wide field-of-view infrared sensors and associated technology,” the press release said.