The U.S. Air Force’s first Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellite, GEO-1, arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., March 3 in preparation for an early May launch on an Atlas 5 rocket, prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems announced March 4.

Once in geosynchronous orbit, the long-delayed missile warning satellite will join two SBIRS payloads hosted on classified satellites in highly elliptical orbits. Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Lockheed Martin is under contract to deliver a total of four SBIRS satellites and four highly elliptical orbiting payloads.

The first SBIRS satellite will be prepared for launch in the Air Force’s former Defense Satellite Communications System Processing Facility, the press release said. The facility’s electrical power supply, communications networks, environmental control systems and clean room areas were upgraded to process the SBIRS satellites.

The Air Force is under pressure to launch the SBIRS spacecraft in May because the Atlas 5 crew must launch two planetary missions for NASA in the summer and fall. Any further delay would push the SBIRS launch into 2012, the service has said.