WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin announced Dec. 2 it has completed production of the fifth satellite of the Space Based Infrared System constellation. The geosynchronous satellite known as SBIRS GEO-5 is projected to launch in 2021 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

Four geosynchronous SBIRS satellites are on orbit today. The billion-dollar spacecraft are equipped with powerful scanning and staring infrared surveillance sensors that can detect missile launches anywhere in the world. 

SBIRS GEO-1 launched May 7, 2011; GEO-2 March 19, 2013; GEO-3 Jan. 20, 2017 and GEO-4 Jan. 19, 2018.

“In 2019 alone SBIRS detected nearly one thousand missile launches, which is about a two-fold increase in two years,” said Tom McCormick, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for overhead persistent infrared systems.

Lockheed Martin said SBIRS GEO-5 is the first military satellite that uses a new bus developed by the company, the LM 2100. SBIRS GEO-6, launching in 2022, is also being built on that bus.

The LM 2100 bus also is the baseline for three missile-warning satellites Lockheed Martin is developing as future replacements for SBIRS. The Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next Gen OPIR) Block 0 GEO satellites are expected to launch starting in 2025.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...