Air Force gives nod to Lockheed high-orbit payload

The Air Force has accepted for operations from Lockheed Martin Corp. an infrared system that functions in a high elliptical orbit.

Acceptance of the Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO-1) payload and ground system follows a successful operational trial and evaluation period during which live HEO data was transmitted into user networks that furnish critical warning and intelligence data to warfighters, company officials said Nov. 13.

HEO payloads offer an infrared view of the battlefield and represent a first step in evolving battlespace awareness capability while also providing real-time data on missiles and aircraft.

Lockheed’s Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) contract encompasses two HWO payloads now on orbit, two geosynchronous orbit spacecraft, as well as ground based equipment to receive and process the infrared data, company officials said. The program is in the initial stages of adding additional GEO and HEO payloads to the planned satellite constellation.

The SBIRS program was established to provide early warning of missile launches and simultaneously support other missions such as missile defense, technical assistance and battlespace awareness. SBIRS comprises a so-called system of systems that will include satellites in geosynchronous orbit, low-Earth orbit, sensors hosted on satellites in HEO, and ground processing and data control.

The SBIRS program is led by the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center located at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. is the SBIRS prime contractor, while Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems serves as the payload integrator. The Air Force Space Command operates the SBIRS system.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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