A new U.S. military satellite launched into orbit Saturday (May 7) on a mission to enhance the country’s missile defense and detection capabilities.
The satellite blasted off atop an unmanned Atlas 5 rocket from a seaside pad here at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 2:10 p.m. EDT (1810 GMT). The mission had been delayed one day due to bad weather.
The Atlas 5 rocket carried the first satellite in the U.S. military’s planned four-satellite Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS). The satellites, the first of which is called GEO-1, will replace the military’s Defense Support Program satellites that are currently in orbit.
“Today, we launched the next generation missile warning capability,” Air Force Space Command commander Gen. William Shelton said in a statement. “It’s taken a lot of hard work by the government-industry team and we couldn’t be more proud. We look forward to this satellite providing superb capabilities for many years to come.” [Video: U.S. Defense Satellites Watch Entire World]
The rocket launch provider United Launch Alliance (ULA) oversaw Saturday’s successful liftoff. The GEO-1 satellite rode atop an Atlas 5 configuration that did not use solid rocket boosters.
U.S. military’s latest space sentinel
The $1.3 billion GEO-1 satellite is expected to provide the military with advanced warning of potential incoming threats while they are on the battlefield. It will circle the Earth in a geosynchronous orbit about 22,000 miles (35,406 kilometers) above its coverage area.
“It’s a great day for United Launch Alliance, we have been entrusted to launch the most important missions for this country – be it for NASA, the military or for the private sector,” said ULA spokesman Chris Chavez. “This is our 50th launch overall, our 26th using the Atlas 5 launch vehicle and our fifth launch this year already.”
This new satellite will give better early warning of incoming missiles. GEO-1 will also provide related information such as intelligence-gathering, missile defense and situational awareness for military personnel.
“SBIRS GEO-1 represents the dawn of a new era in overhead persistent infrared surveillance that will greatly improve our national security for years to come,” said Brig. Gen. (select) Roger W. Teague, the U.S. Air Force’s Infrared Space Systems Directorate director, in a statement.