Space Force early warning satellite launches into orbit

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket lifts off carrying the Space-Based Infrared System’s sixth and final missile early warning satellite. / Credit: William Harwood/CBS News

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket put a $1.2 billion early warning satellite into orbit in spectacular fashion on Thursday. It is the sixth and final member of a global fleet constantly on the lookout for threatening strategic missiles, in theater and hypersonic weapons.

“Threats are rapidly evolving and modernizing,” said Colonel Brian Denaro, US Space Force program executive for Space Sensing, ahead of launch. “Part of this evolution is a range of features that are not only more unpredictable, but are darker, burn faster. Ultimately, they are harder to see.

“It is absolutely critical that our integrated family of systems that provide this persistent IR (infrared) capability not only be able to detect the missiles, but also track them in flight and report these events on a relevant timeline. be able to engage those targets.”

In an ironic reminder of past commercial ties, the Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit – SBIRS GEO 6 – satellite relied on Atlas 5’s Russian-built RD-180 first-stage engine to propel it out of the lower atmosphere. low on a dramatic early morning ascent into space.

The RD-180, along with two Northrop Grumman solid fuel thrusters, ignited with a burst of fire exhaust at 6:29 am EDT, 17 minutes before sunrise, quickly pushing the 194-foot-tall rocket away from the launch pad. . 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

As the rocket climbed into the light of the rising sun, the exhaust smoke turned a bright shade of orange before narrowing to a striking white trail after the stuck thrusters dropped, a high-altitude spectacle visible from tens of kilometers. around.

It was the first of two planned launches in Florida just 12 and a half hours apart, with SpaceX preparing for a night flight of Falcon 9 from the upcoming Platform 40 to put a South Korean science probe on a trajectory to the moon.

Spaceflight Now reported that the two launches will set new records for the most rockets to take off from Florida’s Space Coast in one year — 34 — and the shortest time between two orbital flights since 1967.

As Atlas 5 soared into the sunlight, its exhaust plume turned bright shades of orange moments before the rocket released its two solid-fuel thrusters and continued its climb into space in a spectacle visible from miles away.  / Credit: William Harwood/CBS News

As Atlas 5 soared into the sunlight, its exhaust plume turned bright shades of orange moments before the rocket released its two solid-fuel thrusters and continued its climb into space in a spectacle visible from miles away. / Credit: William Harwood/CBS News

Atlas 5’s flight plan called for SBIRS GEO 6 to be launched into a highly elliptical orbit after three firings of the second stage Centaur Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1-1 engine over three hours. If all goes well, the onboard thrusters will be used to put the satellite into a circular orbit 22,300 miles high above the equator.

At this geosynchronous altitude, satellites take 24 hours to complete one orbit and thus rotate in sync with the planet below, providing constant hemispherical views.

Built by Lockheed Martin, the SBIRS GEO 6 satellite is equipped with sensitive “gaze” and scan sensors to monitor the planet below for the telltale heat signatures of rocket engines in flight.

The two newest members of the constellation, GEO 5, launched in May 2021, and GEO 6, feature “enhanced cyber hardening”, better radiation resistance, more electrical power and improved on-board propulsion.

Artist's impression of an orbiting SBIRS satellite.  / Credit: Lockheed Martin

Artist’s impression of an orbiting SBIRS satellite. / Credit: Lockheed Martin

Working 24 hours a day with other older SBIRS and Defense Support Program early warning satellites, the system offers overlay views, allowing computers to quickly detect, track and predict where incoming missiles might go.

“This is an integrated system of features, integrated end-to-end to deliver … not just the messages and the notice, but also the ability to do something about it,” said Denaro.

“Our entire integrated team across the Department of Defense is focused on getting these messages where they need to go in the timeline needed to engage the target and respond in a timely manner.”

Kentucky man rescues neighbors from deadly floods: ‘It was like being on the Titanic’

China holds military exercises near Taiwan

Impact of Kansas voters rejecting amendment to restrict access to abortion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.