SBIRS Payload Operationally Accepted
By 1st Lt. Nickolas Barton , 2nd Space Warning Squadron
/ Published January 12, 2009
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- On Nov. 7, the 460th Space Wing reached a milestone when Air Force Space Command operationally accepted the first Space Based Infrared System Highly Elliptical Orbit payload and the integration of its data with the time honored Defense Support Program system.
The new addition to the SBIRS system brings increased capability as AFSPC's first taskable sensor.
General Robert Kehler, AFSPC Commander, stated in the HEO operations release memo to the U.S. Strategic Command Commander, Gen. Kevin Chilton, "HEO-1 should well serve the joint and national missile warning, missile defense, battlespace awareness and technical intelligence needs for years to come."
SBIRS is comprised of legacy DSP satellites in geosynchronous orbits. The new HEO sensors in their unique orbit, and the next-generation GEO satellites are slated to begin launching in 2010.
SBIRS detects Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles and theater ballistic missiles. The system can also detect static infrared events, critical to battlespace awareness, such as large explosions and fires. It can also assist in environmental situations such as volcanic eruptions and large forest fires.
The SBIRS Combined Task Force in Boulder, Colo., comprised of Space-Based Infrared System Wing Detachment 1 personnel, 460th Operations Group Operating Location-Alpha members and a large contractor team, led aggressive efforts in launch readiness, launch, system activation, early on-orbit testing and early mission operations testing in order to prepare HEO-1 for a November transition from the CTF to the 11th Space Warning Squadron.
Through hours of hard work, training and team work, the personnel at the 2nd SWS, 11th SWS, 460th Operations Support Squadron, 460th Operations Standardization & Evaluation and the CTF team were able to integrate HEO-1 into the existing infrastructure to perform collection and dissemination with absolute precision.
"Having worked with the legacy DSP system and now the highly complex SBIRS HEO [system], I have witnessed firsthand how far we have come, said Senior Master Sgt. Carl Grieser, 11th SWS Superintendent.
"The operators and maintainers of these systems are of the highest caliber," Sergeant Grieser added. "They have made tremendous strides to bring the future of missile warning onto today's operations floors."
Chief Master Sgt. Grant Murphy, 460th OG Superintendent, expanded on the ability of these operators and maintainers.
"This seamless integration of a new space capability into a proven 35 year old weapon system is a result of the professionalism, technical prowess, and dedication of the operations and acquisition Airmen of today's Air Force Space Command," the Chief said.
On Nov. 21, the 11th SWS assumed control of the second HEO payload in preparation for HEO-2's path to operations acceptance in early 2009.
Meanwhile, the CTF in Boulder is moving swiftly through preparations to launch the next-generation GEO-1 satellite, currently scheduled for December of 2009.
The HEO and GEO satellites bring an even more capable set of sensors into the SBIRS architecture.
"This new capability, integrated into a proven missile warning system, will usher a new age of warning, defense, intelligence, and awareness for today's battlefield warrior," said Airman 1st Class Christopher Simonton, a data systems operator with the 2nd SWS.