Multiple sources engaged in developing vital Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellites say that recent reports of setbacks are wrong. The first geosynchronous satellite in the planned constellation is on track for launch next year, they state, and two sensors from the same architecture already in orbit on secret host spacecraft are performing well. According to one insider, “the program has been holding schedule and performing very well in the final round of thermo-vacuum testing.” Thermo-vacuum testing assesses the ability of satellites to function as planned in the extreme environment of space. Other indications of progress:
— Revised flight software has been performing well.
— Earlier hardware issues have been resolved.
— Sensors already in orbit are getting exceptional reviews.
— The first geosynchronous satellite will be delivered next summer.
— The second geosynchronous payload is being installed on its spacecraft.
The bottom line, insiders say, is that the first geosynchronous SBIRS satellite should reach orbit late next year, unless there is some problem with the launch vehicle scheduled to carry it. Not only will the new satellite replace legacy missile warning systems with a much more sophisticated spacecraft employing both staring and scanning sensors, but all of the original performance goals will be met. That means SBIRS will support not just nuclear deterrence, but also missile defense, conventional warfighting requirements, and technical intelligence-gathering needs. This is not a case where compromises had to be made on what users wanted.
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