• GEO-6 in Thermal Vacuum (TVAC) Testing. (Lockheed Martin)
    GEO-6 in Thermal Vacuum (TVAC) Testing. (Lockheed Martin)

The US Space Force’s latest missile warning satellite is ready for launch, after finishing production nearly a month ahead of schedule.

Lockheed Martin’s sixth Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (SBIRS GEO-6) missile warning satellite is now in storage awaiting its expected launch in 2022. SBIRS GEO-6 is the second military space satellite built on Lockheed Martin’s modernised LM2100 Combat Bus - an enhanced space vehicle that provides 'even greater resiliency and cyber-hardening against growing threats, as well as improved spacecraft power, propulsion and electronics'. 

On September 2, 2021, the US Space Force’s Space Systems Command determined that the SBIRS GEO-6 was complete. The satellite went into storage nearly a month ahead of its September 30 Acquisition Program Baseline (APB) requirement date.  

Once launched, SBIRS GEO-6 will join the Space Force’s constellation of missile warning satellites, equipped with powerful scanning and staring infrared surveillance sensors. These sensors collect data that allow the US military to detect missile launches, support ballistic missile defense, expand technical intelligence gathering and bolster situational awareness on the battlefield.

Like its immediate predecessor, SBIRS GEO-5, which launched on May 18, 2021, SBIRS GEO-6 is built on a modernised space vehicle design. According to Lockheed Martin, the enhanced LM2100 Combat Bus provides:

  • Greater resiliency and cyber-hardening;
  • Enhanced spacecraft power, propulsion and electronics;
  • Common components and procedures to streamline manufacturing;
  • Flexible design that reduces the cost to incorporate future, modernised sensor suites

In June 2021, SBIRS GEO-5 turned on its sensors for the first time during space vehicle checkout and transmitted its first images back to Earth in a milestone known as "First Light".  

“Furthermore, the performance of SBIRS GEO-5’s LM2100 Combat Bus has exceeded expectations throughout the on orbit test campaign since its launch,” Tom McCormick, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for Overhead Persistent Infrared Systems, said.

SBIRS GEO-6 and GEO-5 were originally slated to be clones of previous SBIRS satellites produced by Lockheed Martin. Then in 2015, the US Air Force agreed to rebaseline the contract for the two satellites and upgrade both – at no additional cost – to the LM 2100 Combat Bus, taking advantage of a Lockheed Martin internally funded, multiyear modernisation initiative. 

“We are proud to deliver additional overhead persistent infrared capabilities critical to our Nation’s defense with SBIRS GEO-5 and GEO-6," Col. Matt Spencer, Senior Materiel Leader for Space Systems Command’s GEO/Polar Division, said. "The LM2100 Combat Bus continues to be an effective platform to help meet the Chief of Space Operations’ vision for streamlined space acquisitions."

“The LM2100 is a game changer for military satellite design providing satellite production efficiency, enhanced resiliency options and so much more flexibility for additional payloads and sensors,” McCormick said. “From the LM2100, we’ve really been able to enhance resiliency developing a ‘Combat Bus’ and a bridge to achieving the resilient missile warning required for the Space Force’s Next-Gen OPIR Block 0 System.”

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