A joint US Air Force/Lockheed Martin-led team announced that it has successfully completed thermal vacuum testing of the first Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) geosynchronous (GEO-1) satellite, one of the most significant program milestones that validates spacecraft performance in a simulated space environment. The US Air Force’s SBIRS program is designed to provide early warning of missile launches, and simultaneously provide important capabilities to other missions, including missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness.

Conducted inside Lockheed Martin’s Dual Entry Large Thermal Altitude (DELTA) chamber, the test verified spacecraft functionality and performance in a vacuum environment where the satellite was thoroughly tested at the extreme hot and cold temperatures it will experience in space. Thermal vacuum testing represents the last of several critical environmental test phases that validate the overall satellite design, quality of workmanship and survivability during space vehicle launching and on-orbit operations.

With the completion of spacecraft environmental testing, Lockheed Martin will now perform final factory work on the satellite and execute a series of integrated spacecraft and system tests to ensure the vehicle is ready for flight. The first SBIRS GEO spacecraft is planned for delivery to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in late 2010, where it will then undergo final processing and preparation for launch aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle.

The SBIRS team is led by the Space Based Infrared Systems Wing at the US Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Sunnyvale, CA, is the SBIRS prime contractor, with Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, Azusa, CA, as the payload integrator. Air Force Space Command operates the SBIRS system.