ULA’s Workhorse Atlas V to Launch Missile Defense ‘SBIRS GEO 5’ Mission on Monday

ULA’s Atlas V in a ‘421’ configuration able to launch the SBIRS GEO Flight 5 mission to orbit for the U.S. House Power at 1:34pm ET on Might 17, 2021 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Photograph: ULA

It has been a sluggish begin this yr for United Launch Alliance, however that’s about to alter tomorrow, as they kick-off their first of eight deliberate Atlas V launches this yr with a mission to ship the fifth geostationary-orbiting aspect of the House-Based mostly Infrared System (SBIRS GEO-5) into orbit for the U.S. House Power.

Liftoff of the 194-foot tall rocket is focused for 1:35 p.m. EDT on Monday, 17 Might, and can mark the eighth flight of an Atlas V in a “421” configuration, geared up with a 13-foot-wide (4-meter) fairing, two strap-on solid-fueled boosters and a single-engine Centaur higher stage. The mission may even mark the 91st nationwide safety launch for ULA, and their 8 Atlas V flight.

Watch the launch LIVE above on Might 17

“We take our position in nationwide safety very severely and pleasure ourselves in being companions in house with the U.S. House Power. We’re launching crucial capabilities for the warfighter and perceive the necessity for reliability and consistency,” mentioned Gary Wentz, ULA vice chairman of Authorities and Industrial Applications. “This mission marks our 91st launch in assist of nationwide safety house.  As we put together to launch the fifth SBIRS mission, we thank our companions for his or her excellent teamwork and collaboration.”

Uniquely, tomorrow’s launch would be the first time an Atlas V has flown within the 421 configuration to raise a SBIRS GEO satellite tv for pc to orbit. The primary three SBIRS GEO missions in Might 2011, March 2013 and January 2017 rode “401” boosters, with no strap-on rockets, though January 2018’s launch occurred on a “411” with a single facet booster. ULA’s CEO Tory Bruno famous on the time of the SBIRS GEO-Four launch that the extra impetus afforded by the only stable supplied “sufficient power to permit Centaur to be instantly deorbited” after its mission, reasonably than inserting it into a delegated disposal (or “junkyard”) orbit for slower decay and eventual re-entry. It’s believed that the extra efficiency afforded by the 421 will allow a extra optimized orbit for the payload.

Watch a preview video of what you’ll be able to count on in the course of the Atlas V rocket’s flight to ship the #SBIRSGEO5 satellite tv for pc right into a geosynchronous switch orbit (ULA video)

SBIRS GEO-5 accomplished an ahead-of-schedule building and testing marketing campaign final October, with the elimination of pointless programmatic oversight and reporting, a restructured check program and a streamlined manufacturing schedule having enabled Lockheed Martin to complete SBIRS GEO-5 in solely 5 years. Described as a “international guardian” for ballistic missile detection and protection, it’s the fifth geostationary aspect of an upgraded set of space-based infrared “eyes” and follows 4 earlier missions additionally launched atop Atlas Vs between Might 2011 and January 2018.

SBIRS varieties a of a multi-billion-dollar effort to switch the sooner Protection Help Program (DSP) community of early-warning satellites, whose personal ancestry extends again to the 1970s. It’s anticipated to allow america’ house surveillance wants for the subsequent 20 years, with focuses together with superior early warning, missile protection and battlespace characterization. In its last kind, it should comprise six GEO satellites at geostationary altitude, along with adjunct sensors aboard the HEO-1 and HEO-2 satellites, which had been inserted into highly-elliptical orbits again in June 2006 and March 2008.

The profitable launch of SBIRS GEO-1 in Might 2011 marked the end result of a protracted and tortured improvement course of, which noticed prices balloon by over 400 p.c from an estimated $Four billion to over $17 billion. In accordance with Common Accounting Workplace (GAO) auditors, as reported by Defense Industry Daily in February 2013, this system suffered from “immature applied sciences, unclear necessities, unstable funding, underestimated software program complexity [and] poor oversight”.

As circumstances transpired, the Air Power’s obvious lack of options for an pressing nationwide requirement to have a complicated infrared surveillance system in orbit to actively monitor ballistic missile launches and nuclear occasions appears to have prevented SBIRS’ cancelation. Its capabilities embody extremely subtle scanning/staring sensors, with improved infrared sensitivity and the scope to supply wide-area (“scanning”) surveillance and small-area (“staring”) observations. Three additional SBIRS GEO satellites had been launched in March 2013, January 2017 and January 2018.

SBIRS in orbit. Picture Credit score: Lockheed Martin

Within the meantime, a $284.Four million contract for the acquisition of long-lead gadgets for GEO-5 and GEO-6 had been awarded in March 2013, forward of the definitive $1.86 billion deal between the Air Power and Lockheed Martin in June 2014 to manufacture each satellites. On the time of the award, it was famous that the contract shaped a part of “a considerate acquisition technique geared toward additional decreasing value and cycle time”. Specifically, greater than a billion {dollars}’ price of saving had been achieved by means of “block-” contracting practices and the elimination of pointless program oversight and reporting, a restructured check program and a streamlined manufacturing schedule.

In September 2017, each the GEO-5 and GEO-6 satellites wrapped up their Vital Design Evaluation (CDR) at Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale, Calif., facility, with Col. Dennis Bythewood, director of SMC’s Distant Sensor Techniques Directorate, praising the “resiliency” of this system. Upon the completion of the CDR, each satellites moved instantly into manufacturing and integration. In February 2019, ULA was awarded a $441.6 million contract to launch three payloads—together with SBIRS GEO-5 and GEO-6—with an expectation that the GEO-5 aspect would fly atop an Atlas V from House Launch Advanced (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Power Station, Fla., as early as March 2021.

SBIRS GEO-5 accomplished structural and environmental testing. Photograph Credit score: Lockheed Martin

GEO-5 pressed easily by means of Thermal Vacuum (TVAC) testing final summer season, which constituted a “main milestone” in readying the satellite tv for pc for last meeting. “Lockheed Martin House overcame COVID-19-related challenges,” famous the Air Power, “to take care of meeting and check operations with minimal impacts.” Following its completion final fall, SBIRS GEO-5 was delivered aboard a C-5M Tremendous Galaxy transport plane from Moffett Airfield in California to the House Coast in March.

The design of SBIRS GEO-5 marks the inaugural use of Lockheed Martin’s closely modernized LM2100 “Fight Bus”, carrying twin photo voltaic arrays and a strong communications and imaging payload. In what has been described as a “technical refresh update”, their newer elements and extra fashionable electronics are anticipated to realize a lift in functionality and reliability.

Lockheed Martin-built SBIRS GEO-5 Mission Warning Satellite tv for pc in Acoustic Testing. Photograph: Lockheed

The brand new SBIRS advantages from 26 enhancements, starting from improved cyber-hardening, higher spacecraft , propulsion and electronics, frequent elements to streamline manufacturing and a versatile design structure. In accordance with Lockheed Martin, the LM2100 Fight Bus structure may even kind the baseline for the upcoming Subsequent-Technology Overhead Passive Infrared (Subsequent-Gen OPIR) Block zero satellites and the International Positioning System (GPS) Block III Comply with-On collection, each of that are anticipated to enter service across the center of this decade.

Led by the Infrared House Techniques Directorate on the Air Power’s House and Missile Techniques Heart (SMC) at Los Angeles Air Power Base in Los Angeles, Calif., the SBIRS GEO satellites and their floor techniques are operated by the 460th House Wing at Buckley Air Power Base in Aurora, Colo. “SBIRS’ position as an ever-present, on-orbit guardian in opposition to international ballistic missile threats has by no means been extra crucial,” mentioned Tom McCormick, Lockheed Martin’s vice chairman for OPIR Techniques. “In 2019 alone, SBIRS detected almost one thousand missile launches, which is a few two-fold enhance in two years.”

Atlas V with SBIRS GEO 5 poised for launch atop SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral. Photograph: Jeff Seibert / AmericaSpace.com

Along with SBIRS GEO-5, the Atlas V may even be transporting a pair of “Multi-Manifest Satellite tv for pc Automobiles” on behalf of the Multi-Manifest Workplace of the House and Missile Techniques Heart (SMC), headquartered at Los Angeles Air Power Base in Los Angeles, Calif., in partnership with the U.S. Air Power Academy. Designated “TDO-3” and “TDO-4”, the 2 12U CubeSats—every measuring roughly 7.eight x 7.eight x 13.Four inches (20 x 20 x 34 cm)—are set to be deployed shortly earlier than SBIRS GEO-5 itself.

Little has been revealed about their exact targets, with ULA noting solely that “a multi-manifest mission set permits extra functionality to be positioned on-orbit”, with the eventual aim of “offering extra crucial capabilities to the warfighter”. Two earlier missions with comparable designators, TDO-1 and TDO-2, rode aboard Atlas Vs in 2019 and March 2020, alongside the second-to-last and final Superior Extraordinarily Excessive Frequency (AEHF) communications satellites. Within the case of TDO-2, the small satellite tv for pc was launched from its perch on the aft-facing finish of the Centaur higher stage a few half-hour after liftoff. The 2 missions targeted upon a spread of orbital particles monitoring and house area consciousness performance duties.

Launch visibility map (ULA graphic)

Coming solely three weeks for the reason that spectacular 26 April launch of an enormous Delta IV Heavy booster from Vandenberg Air Power Base, Calif.—laden with the labeled NROL-82 payload for the Nationwide Reconnaissance Workplace—an in any other case flightless spring for ULA appears to be giving solution to a busy second half of the yr. Following SBIRS GEO-5, a long-delayed mission in assist of House Take a look at Program (STP) targets is presently focused for June, with the second uncrewed Orbital Flight Take a look at (OFT-2) of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner to the Worldwide House Station (ISS) now formally scheduled for 30 July.

Written by Ben Evans and Mike Killian

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