ULA Atlas V Delivers SBIRS ‘Global Watchman’ Ballistic Missile Early Warning Satellite to Orbit: Photos

Long exposure
streak shot of a ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the SBIRS GEO Flight 4
missile tracking surveillance satellite for the U.S. Air Force after lift
off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex-41 at 7:48 p.m.
 EST, Jan. 19, 2018.   Credit: Ken Kremer/SpaceUpClose.com
Ken
Kremer     Space UpClose     20
Jan 2018

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – Just hours
before the shutdown of the U.S. government due to a budget impasse between the
political parties in the national capitol, a United Launch Alliance (ULA)
Atlas V rocket blasted off at dinnertime Friday night,
Jan. 19 and successfully delivered
the SBIRS Geo Flight 4 infrared surveillance and enemy ballistic missile detection satellite to orbit for the U.S. Air
Force from Florida’s spaceport. 
The 5 ton, 50-foot-long high priority satellite
was “r
esponding to commands” soon thereafter confirming its healthy on orbit operation.
Liftoff of the Atlas V rocket carrying the USAF SBIRS Geo Flight 4 satellite took place right at the opening
of the launch window Jan. 19 at 7:48 p.m. EST, from 
seaside Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida by
rocket provider United Launch Alliance (ULA).
Check out our SpaceUpClose gallery of photos
and videos from myself and space colleagues and friends.
Long exposure
streak shot of a ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the SBIRS GEO Flight 4
missile tracking surveillance satellite for the U.S. Air Force after lift
off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex-41 at 7:48 p.m.
 EST, Jan. 19, 2018.   Credit: Ken Kremer/SpaceUpClose.com

Flocks of excited spectators from across the globe gathered at
beaches and lined causeways ringing the Florida Space Coast for the especially
convenient dinnertime blastoff as the 19-story tall Atlas V roared off pad 41
into crystal clear, cloudless and comfortably warm evening skies.



We observed a stunning sky spectacle for over 5 uninterrupted minutes
as the first and second stages separated as the rocket and payload arced over
to the African continent and accelerated to orbit.  
Watch this video compilation of the launch captured by cameras
stationed at multiple angles:
Video Caption: UP CLOSE Atlas-V Launches SBIRS GEO-4 Missile
Defense Satellite / Jan 19, 2018. 
Views from our remote cameras capturing
up-close angles of a ULA Atlas-V rocket, flying a rare ‘411’ configuration with
1 solid rocket booster, to deliver America’s fourth critical SBIRS missile
defense satellite (GEO-4) to orbit for the U.S Air Force on Jan 19, 2018.
Credit: Jeff Seibert
 “The successful launch of
SBIRS GEO Flight-4 is the reward for years of hard work put in by our combined
government and industry team,” said Col. Dennis Bythewood, director of the
Remote Sensing Directorate, in a statement.
“Putting this fourth SBIRS GEO
satellite on-orbit is the capstone event for the original SBIRS baseline
constellation, and I’m proud of everyone involved.  Without their
perseverance and dedication to the mission, this wouldn’t have been possible.”
Launch of the ULA Atlas V carrying the USAF SBIRS GEO Flight 4
mission on Jan. 19, 2018.
   Credit:  Julian Leek

The SBIRS system functions as a 24/7 ‘global  watchman’ with infrared eyes that are “more precise and powerful than
expected
.”
The scanning sensor continuously scans the earth to provide tactical alerts on missile warning, missile
defense, battlespace awareness, and tactical intelligence
critical to the defense of our homeland and our allies.
“SBIRS
is the nation’s 24-7 global watchman, with infrared eyes ready to detect and
deliver early warning and tracking of ballistic missiles. A cornerstone of the
nation’s missile defense system, SBIRS is proving even more precise and
powerful than expected,” said 
Tom McCormick, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Overhead Persistent Infrared
systems mission area.
Government and military leaders say the Space Based
Infrared System (SBIRS)
is “considered to be one of the
nation’s highest priority space programs, and is designed to provide global,
persistent, infrared surveillance capabilities to meet 21st century demands.”



Launch of the ULA Atlas V carrying the USAF SBIRS GEO Flight 4
mission on Jan. 19, 2018.
   Credit:  Dawn Leek Taylor


SBIRS GEO 4 launched southeast at an inclination of
16.88 degrees. It separated from the 2nd stage 42 minutes and 31
seconds after liftoff as planned.
“Following separation, the spacecraft began a series of orbital
maneuvers to propel it to a geosynchronous earth orbit. Once in its final
orbit, engineers will deploy the satellite’s solar arrays and antennas. The
engineers will then complete checkout and tests in preparation for operational
use,” said the USAF.
The USAF Space Based Infrared
System (SBIRS) Geosynchronous
Earth Orbit (GEO) Flight 4 satellite is designed to detect infrared signatures that
will
deliver vital early warnings on incoming hostile
nuclear and conventional ballistic missiles in case of an enemy attack
on the US and its allies.
The crucial role of SBIRS was
highlighted just days ago by the false missile attack alert  alarm sent out by Hawaiian state authorities
with the
Emergency
Management Agency (EMA)
warning of an
imminent ballistic missile attack of the type that this satellite would detect.
The false alarm panicked hordes of residents and tourists alike and took 38
minutes to correct.
With the unpredictable North
Korean dictator Kim John Un repeatedly launching ever more powerful and
upgraded long range intercontinental ballistic missiles this past year that
could potentially strike virtually the entire United States land mass, SBIRS
GEO 4 is more important than ever for our national defense.



The ULA Atlas V rocket launched the U.S.
Air Force SBIRS GEO Flight 4 mission on Jan. 19, 2018 from Space Launch
Complex-41 on
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and successfully delivered the infrared missile tracking
satellite to orbit. 
Credit: Ken
Kremer/SpaceUpClose.com


Friday nights launch counts as the
fourth in the SBIRS constellation. It marked the completion of the initial
network of a quartet of
 infrared surveillance
satellites that will provide rapid and accurate warning of attacking enemy
strategic missiles via infrared signatures – as well as critical targeting data
to US missile defense systems to enable swiftly responding launches that will
hopefully destroy the attackers in the battle space arena before impacting and
destroying US cities, infrastructure and military installations and killing
untold millions.
“The delivery, launch, and successful operation
of GEO Flight-4 will mark the fulfillment of the original SBIRS baseline
constellation and reaffirm our commitment to provide our country, warfighters,
and senior leaders with timely, reliable, and accurate missile warning and
infrared surveillance information,” said Lt. Gen. John Thompson, SMC commander
and Air Force program executive officer for space.



The ULA Atlas V rocket launched the U.S.
Air Force SBIRS GEO Flight 4 mission on Jan. 19, 2018 from Space Launch
Complex-41 on
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and successfully delivered the infrared missile tracking
satellite to orbit. 
Credit: Ken
Kremer/SpaceUpClose.com


The $1.2 Billion Space
Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellite was launched into geosynchronous
transfer orbit some
22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) over the equator.
The U.S. Air Force’s 460th Space Wing reported a
successful acquisition of signals from the satellite 37 minutes later.
SBIRS GEO Flight-4 satellite
is responding to the Wing’s commands as planned. Signal acquisition was
confirmed approximately 37 minutes after the satellite’s 7:48 p.m.
EST launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas,” reported satellite
builder Lockheed Martin.
“SBIRS GEO Flight-4 is the latest satellite to join
the Air Force’s orbiting missile warning constellation equipped with powerful
scanning and staring infrared surveillance sensors.”
“The sensors collect data for use by the U.S.
military to detect missile launches, support ballistic missile defense, expand
technical intelligence gathering and bolster situational awareness on the
battlefield. The satellite also completes the initial constellation and allows
SBIRS to provide global coverage.”
“Finalizing
the preparations for the fourth launch of a SBIRS GEO satellite is a big deal,”
notes Col. Dennis Bythewood.  “The entire
team understands how significant this is, and we’re ready to make it happen.”
The SBIRS constellation is replacing the
Defense Support Program (DSP) constellation which has been in operation since
1970.
A ULA Atlas V rocket
carrying the SBIRS GEO Flight 4 mission for the
U.S. Air Force lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch
Complex-41 at 7:48 p.m. EST, Jan. 19, 2018.
  Credit: Ken
Kremer/SpaceUpClose.com

The
194-foot-tall commercial Atlas V booster launched in the 411 rocket
configuration with approximately 860,000 pounds of sea level first stage
thrust  powered by
the single engine dual
nozzle Russian-built RD AMROSS RD-180 engine fueled by liquid oxygen and RP-1
kerosene propellants. 
 There is one thrust augmenting Aerojet-Rocketdyne
AJ-60A
solid rocket booster (SRB)
attached to the first stage generating approximately 348,500 pounds of thrust.     
The 10,000
pound satellite is housed inside a
4-meter (14 foot) diameter large payload
fairing (LPF).  The Centaur upper stage
is powered by a single Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C engine producing 22,900 lb of
thrust fueled by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

A ULA Atlas V rocket
carrying the SBIRS GEO Flight 4 mission for the
U.S. Air Force lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch
Complex-41 at 7:48 p.m. EST, Jan. 19, 2018.
  Credit: Ken
Kremer/SpaceUpClose.com

This mission marked the
5th Atlas V mission in the minimally used 411 configuration, including NASA’s
OSIRIS-REX asteroid sampling probe.

The three prior SBIRS GEO
missions launched on the ULA Atlas V 401 workhouse configuration of the rocket.
The solid rocket booster
was added for a controlled deorbit of the second stage.
Launch of the 194-foot-tall two stage Atlas V rocket had been delayed a day
due to an issue with a faulty ground hardware valve with the first stage
boosters liquid oxygen system.


The launch of SBIRS
GEO Flight 4 comes almost exactly 1 year after the
SBIRS GEO 3 launch likewise on an Atlas V in January 2017. 
The first SBIRS
satellite was launched in 2011 and the second in 2013. 
The satellites were built at prime contractor
Lockheed Martin’s
satellite manufacturing facility in Sunnyvale, California.
Lockheed Martin is
under contract to build two more upgraded satellites in the SBIRS series based
on the LM 2100 satellite bus.
SBIRS 5 and 6 will
launch after 2020.
“We’re
already improving on SBIRS, upgrading our fifth and sixth SBIRS GEO satellites
to our modernized
LM 2100 satellite
bus
at no additional cost to the Air Force. On SBIRS 5 and 6 the Air
Force saved $1 billion through improved production and management efficiencies,”
noted
Tom McCormick.
ULA has enjoyed a 100% success rate up to this 75th
Atlas V launch stretching back to the company’s founding back in 2006 and the
Atlas V inaugural flight in 2002.
ULA is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin with
125 successful launches now under its belt. 
The SBIRS team is led by the
Remote Sensing Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile
Systems Center. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor, with Northrop Grumman
as the payload integrator. Air Force Space Command operates the SBIRS system.
Read our detailed prelaunch
and launch stories. 
Watch
for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of Falcon Heavy, ULA and NASA and
space mission
reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station, Florida.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing
Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.comwww.spaceupclose.com – twitter
@ken_kremer
…..
ULA Atlas V at
Sunset at pad 41
on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station,
Fla
that will
deliver
SBIRS GEO Flight 4 to
geosynchronous orbit for the USAF on Jan. 19, 2018.
Credit: Ken Kremer/SpaceUpClose.com
SBIRS GEO Flight 4,
the next Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) satellite to join the U.S. Air
Force’s Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) during assembly and test at
Lockheed Martin’s satellite manufacturing facility in Sunnyvale, California.   Credit: Lockheed Martin

Ken Kremer

Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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