SBIS constellation’s 4th satellite is now fully operational, as per an Air Force SMC announcement on June 6.Costing over $1 billion with Lockheed Martin building it, the SBIRS’s Geo-4 satellite was launched from CCAF station abroad a ULA Atlas 5 rocket in January last year.
Air Force announced that it was functioning well and transmitting data to MCS. The operation was done at the Buckley Base in Colorado by 460th Space Wing. The satellite is being accepted into missile warning systems, as per Colonel Hunt, a senior officer heading the program.4 such satellites equipped with HEO sensors would be providing global coverage to detect missile launches. Previous satellites had launches between 2011 and 2017.
Two other SBIRS satellites are being manufactured as well by LM, with delivery set between 2020 and 2021. The satellites after that have been canceled by Air Force for another program, the NGOPI. These satellites would be developed at a faster rate.
LM fulfilled system requirements in a review for 3 space vehicles in the constellation. The 2 reviews for system design were also finished for payloads with LM’s subcontractors, NGBA and Raytheon, who are developing warning sensors.
NGOPIR will be among the largest satellites contracts by Air Force. It has requested $1.4 billion for FY 2020, spread over the GEO satellites, polar orbiting based satellites, ground systems & studies on material obsolescence and future parts.
However, it is still short of $632 million. Leaders have asked Congress for more money in 2019 FY budget.GEO vehicle delivery will be achieved by 2025, said an announcement. This is subject to budget decisions. Out of this $632 million, half is intended for payloads with the rest for personnel development, procurement of components, and bus component building and design.
NGOPIR satellites have better sensors and features than SBIRS satellites, making them apt for contested environments as per Lt Colonel Brown, SMC’s SDC’s NGOPIR’s deputy chief.