An Atlas V rocket from the United Launch Alliance (ULA) carrying the space-based Infrared System (SBIRS) The GEO Flight 4 mission took off from Space Launch Complex-41 on January 19 at 7:48 p.m. TE (UNITED LAUNCH ALLIANCE)
A week after launching a spy satellite from California on top of a Delta 4 rocket, the United Launch Alliance raised an early warning satellite to space aboard an Atlas 5 rocket on Friday night after of a sky launch from Cape Canaveral.
With a crescent moon setting in the west, the RD-180 engine built in Russia from Atlas 5 thundered to life at 7:48 p.m. M. ET, followed a moment later by the ignition of a single solid fuel accelerator with a belt. After a brilliant escape, the 194-foot-high rocket rose rapidly from complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, in a bow to the east over the Atlantic Ocean.
The takeoff came a day late due to problems with a liquid oxygen valve in the pad propellant system, but it was a smooth sailing on Friday. The belt accelerator burned and fell shortly after launch and the ascent continued under the power of the first stage engine, which looked like a "star" of fire in the night sky.
The first stage went off normally, falling four minutes after takeoff, and a little less than 10 minutes later, the second stage of the Centaur rocket completed the first of two rounds to put the spacecraft in a preliminary orbit.
A second shot 10 minutes later was designed for Infrared Based System – SBIRS – satellite in an elliptical "transfer" orbit with a high point, or apogee, of around 35,850 miles and a low point, or perigee, of 115 miles.
The satellite's on-board propeller will be fired over the next two weeks to circularize the orbit at an altitude of 22,300 miles above the equator. In these geosynchronous orbits, satellites take 24 hours to complete a trip around the planet and appear stationary in the sky.
The new satellite will join three other space-based SBIRS (SIB-ers) already in geosynchronous orbit using telescopes and sophisticated infrared sensors to constantly monitor the world below for heat generated by a rocket during launch. The SBIRS GEO-4 satellite completes the constellation, providing overlapping global coverage.
The SBIRS system also incorporates data from the previous Defense Support Program, or DSP, early warning satellites along with independent infrared sensors mounted on other military satellites classified in lower elliptical orbits.
"The missiles, as they fly, create a heat signal, and certainly our opponents are moving to make the heat signature smaller and smaller, and we are moving to maintain the ability to detect them as As we move forward, Colonel Dennis Bythewood, director of the Remote Sensing Systems Directorate at Los Angeles Air Force Base, told reporters before the launch.
"The missile warning constellation, consisting of the Support Program Defense and the SBIRS satellites, provides that initial warning to our nation's leaders. So, whether there is a real launch or a false indication of a launch, the missile warning architecture is there to provide the real information one that allows us to understand what really happened. "
The SBIRS satellites are built by Lockheed Martin, using sensors provided by Northrup Grumman, SBIRS GEO 3 and 4 have a total value of $ 1.2 billion, including the costs of the rockets needed for its launch.
"The Defense Support Program has provided data of missile warning since 1970, "said Bythewood." It has been the basis of our constellation of missile warning and continues to provide phenomenal data.
SBIRS early warning satellites use sophisticated infrared sensors to search for the heat produced by ballistics and tactical rockets. (LOCKHEED MARTIN)
"However, the sensors that we have in the SBIRS constellation are one step away from their capacity, and when we launch them and move them to the constellation, we can get to attenuate the targets and keep the pace of the missiles that our adversaries are presenting day by day. "
Along with the detection of intercontinental ballistic missiles, SBIRS sensors can also" see "the heat produced by smaller tactical weapons, improving" battle space awareness "and providing intelligence technique.
"When the system was originally designed at the time of the Cold War, we were really concerned about the Soviet Union and its allies," Bythewood said before the third SBIRS launch last January. "In the world today, and certainly in the last 20 years, the proliferation of missiles outside that concentrated area has grown demonstrably.
" The regional systems present in Asia and the Middle East are within the reach of our deployed forces. So the SBIRS constellation is tasked with providing timely, reliable and accurate missile warning information to protect our nation and our troops operating abroad. "
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