Space Force to launch fifth SBIRS satellite in May

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The geosynchronous SBIRS GEO-5 is the fifth satellite of the Space Based Infrared System program.

WASHINGTON — A $1.6 billion Space Based Infrared System satellite arrived last week at Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. The satellite, made by Lockheed Martin, is scheduled to launch May 17 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, the U.S. Space Force announced March 24.

The geosynchronous SBIRS GEO-5 is the fifth satellite of the Space Based Infrared System program. Lockheed Martin said the manufacturing of SBIRS GEO-5 was completed in December.

SBIRS satellites use staring and scanning infrared sensors to detect missile launches and provide advance warning. 

The first satellite launched in 2011, the second in 2013, the third in 2017 and the fourth in 2018. The final satellite SBIRS GEO-6 will launch in 2022. 

ULA said the Atlas 5 for this mission will be a 421 configuration — with a four-meter payload fairing, two strap-on solid boosters and a single engine upper stage.

Lockheed Martin said SBIRS GEO-5 is the first satellite that uses the military variant of the LM 2100 bus, called LM 2100 Combat Bus, which has enhanced security features. SBIRS GEO-6 also is being built on that bus.

The SBIRS constellation was designed to replace the Defense Support Program, a system of early warning satellites made by Northrop Grumman that has been in operation since the 1970s.

Both Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are now under contract to develop new missile-warning satellites known as Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared.