The United Launch Alliance is all set to launch the fourth geosynchronous satellite for the U.S. Air Force. As per the latest reports, ULA’s Atlas V 411 rocket carrying the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO Flight 4 satellite will blast off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) on January 18. The Atlas V rocket will be launched from the Space Launch Complex (SLC) 41 at 7:52 p.m. ET, Thursday.
Once deployed in the lower Earth orbit, SBIRS GEO Flight-4 satellite will help detect missiles for the U.S. military. It is the fourth installation of the SBIRS satellite and will join the other three SBIRS satellites that are operational in space. Lockheed Martin is the manufacturer of the SBIRS GEO 4 satellite, and it was delivered to CCAFS in the month of December 2017. The satellite weighs almost 10,000 pounds and has a dimension of 14.9 m x 6.7 m x 6.1 m.
On Tuesday, January 9, the satellite was incorporated into the four-meter payload fairing of the Atlas V rocket. Then it was safely placed in the nose cone that moved out to the Vertical Integration Facility on January 10. Then the fairing carrying the satellite was fixed atop the Atlas V 411. Inside the SBIRS GEO 4 satellite, both scanning sensor and starring sensor are present and also there are short Schmidt telescopes with dual optical pointing. There are also two deployable, sunlight tracking solar arrays to provide power to the satellite. 430 lbs of fuel is also present in the spacecraft.
As per Lockheed Martin, the spacecraft has a lifespan span of almost 12 years. The scanning and staring sensors will scan the Earth 24X7 to help the U.S. military detect missiles. Data from those sensors will also contribute to intelligence and theatre missions. The SBIRS GEO 4 mission is a part of the U.S. Air Force’s Defense Support Program (DSP). The program consists of a mix of satellites in geosynchronous orbit and highly elliptical orbit along with a ground component. Thursday’s launch of SBIRS GEO 4 satellite will mark the first launch mission of 2018 for ULA and, as per the latest reports, the Atlas V 411 has been assigned a 40-minute launch window. The three already deployed SBIRS satellite had flown atop an Atlas V 401 rocket of the ULA.