SBIRS | Space-Based Infrared System

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Product Type:

Missile Early Warning
and Defense Satellite System

Using Service (US):

Air Force (USAF)

Program Status:

In Production

Prime Contractors:

Lockheed Martin Corporation

SBIRS Satellite

About the SBIRS Program:

The Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) is a satellite system providing data for missile surveillance, missile defense, technical intelligence, and battlespace awareness. SBIRS will field a constellation of satellites in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) and hosted payloads in Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) with an integrated centralized ground station serving all SBIRS space elements. The SBIRS will replace the Defense Support Program (DSP) System as a key element of U.S. missile early warning and defense systems.

SBIRS will provide critical functions for protecting the United States and its allies by supporting four mission areas: Missile Warning (MW), Missile Defense (MD), Battlespace Awareness (BA), and Technical Intelligence (TI). SBIRS is designed to perform these missions well into the 21st century.

The SBIRS constellation will consist of infrared (IR) sensor payloads on host satellites in Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) and two IR sensors each on dedicated SBIRS satellites in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO). The HEO sensor is designed to detect submarine-launched ballistic missiles from the north polar region and can be tasked to perform other IR detection missions as well. The GEO scanning sensor is designed to perform the strategic missile warning mission, global technical intelligence, as well as the initial phase of the strategic missile defense mission. The GEO scanning sensor provides a shorter revisit time and greater sensitivity than the DSP sensor over its full field of view. The GEO staring sensor is designed to perform the theater missile warning and missile defense missions, the battlespace awareness mission, the technical intelligence mission in focus areas, and the final phase of the strategic missile defense mission. It provides step-stare or dedicated stare operations over smaller geographic regions than the scanning sensor.

The SBIRS team is led by the Infrared Space Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) operates the SBIRS system. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor on the SBIRS program, while Northrop Grumman (subcontractor) is the payload integrator. Northrop Grumman for example supplies the SBIRS GEO satellites' navigation system, the so-called Scalable Space Inertial Reference Unit (Scalable SIRU) for sensor pointing/stabilization and attitude control.

The first HEO payload was operational in December 2008. In July 2013, Lockheed Martin delivered the third HEO payload. The first GEO satellite (GEO-1) was launched in May 2011 followed by GEO-2 on March 19, 2013. The Air Force was able to reduce costs by switching the launch order of GEO SV-3 and SV-4, which eliminated the need to swap the space vehicles in and out of storage. SV-4 (GEO-3) was launched on January 20, 2017 and SV-3 (GEO-4) will follow later in 2017.

On June 24, 2014, the Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.86 billion contract to complete the production of GEO-5 and GEO-6. On October 15, 2014, Northrop Grumman received a $422 million contract from Lockheed Martin to produce sensor payloads for GEO-5 and GEO-6. GEO-5 and GEO-6 satellites will be based on Lockheed Martin's modernized A2100 spacecraft.

SBIRS Production Forecast:

A 15-year SBIRS production forecast is available through Forecast International's Platinum Forecast System, which includes a breakout of total market unit and value statistics by manufacturer and end-user. This real-time service also includes information on all prime and subcontractors, contract awards, no. of active satellites/systems, a complete program history, and a rationale detailing the outlook of the program. A 10-year SBIRS production forecast is also available in report format through Forecast International's Space Systems Forecast service.


The SBIRS provides initial warning of ballistic missile launches.

FY 2020 & FY 2021 - SBIRS DoD Program:

This data is available in Forecast International's U.S. Defense Budget Forecast, a comprehensive analytical database containing historical and forecast budget figures, year-to-year funding comparisons, congressional budget markups, program justification documents, and much more.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Lockheed Martin Corp.,
and Northrop Grumman Corp.

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Space Systems Forecast:

Complete and detailed information, including production forecast data, is provided in our Market Intelligence Service: Space Systems Forecast.

Forecast International Budget Data:

With Forecast International's U.S. Defense Budget Forecast, you not only get the latest program news, the DoD funding, worldwide inventories and planned quantities, long range forecasts, but most important – an expert's rationale for all programs and the overall market.

DoD Spending in FY 2014, FY 2015, FY 2016, FY 2017 and FY 2018 + 5-year forecast

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