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First GEO satellite to launch Friday

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE Colo- -- Beginning at 12:14 p.m., Friday, May 6, the first of four geosynchronous satellites is scheduled to be launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. aboard an Atlas V rocket. The launch will begin rounding out the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) missile warning system for the U.S Air Force at Buckley.

GEO-1 will enhance the 460th Space Wing's missile warning capabilities and provide the wing with the next generation of satellites that will improve its ability to provide missile defense, technical intelligence and robust battle space awareness.

"Initiating a new era in Missile Warning with the launch of GEO-1 is an absolutely critical step in the continuation of providing assured warning to protect our homeland and deployed forces. The addition of this satellite to the 460th's mission capability is not just an evolutionary step, but a revolutionary one in terms of the dramatic increase in capability that it will provide. I am extremely proud of our team and its contribution in making the historic event a reality."

Built by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, the satellite was encapsulated into in the launch vehicle payload fairing in preparation for launch late last month and then loaded onto the Atlas V rocket. Once launched the satellite will climb to an altitude of about 22,300 miles, where it will eventually orbit in a geosynchronous orbit above earth looking for missile launches against the U.S. and its allies.

GEO will eventually replace the Defense Support Program (DSP) satellite constellation that has been in operation for over 40 years. Since the early 1970s, 23 DSP satellites and multiple Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) payloads have been launched. The specific numbers of satellites and payloads on orbit remain classified.

The 460th Operations Group will host a launch party at Newtch's Den to watch the satellite launch.

"This is a very important day for Buckley AFB and the 460th Space Wing and I can't think of a better way to celebrate the success of the program than to cheer on the launch of the inaugural satellite," said Lt Col Jay Jones, 460th Operations Support Squadron Commander.

During a telephone press conference last month, Brig. Gen. Roger Teague, head of the Air Force Infrared Spaces Systems Directorate in Los Angles, talked about the upcoming launch and its capabilities for the Air Force. The GEO satellite will be "much more sensitive and we will be able to see dimmer objects much earlier than before," he said.

During the interview he acknowledged that the SBIRS program "has faced and overcome a number of challenges in the past." These have ranged from schedule delays to cost overruns.

The next geosynchronous satellite is scheduled to launch in 2012.
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