Budget Busters: The USA’s SBIRS-High Missile Warning Satellites
February 21/19: Satellite contract to ULS The US Air Force contracted United Launch Services with $441.8 million for launch services to deliver the Silent Barker, BIRS GEO-5, and SBIRS GEO-6 missions to their intended orbits. United Launch Services is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing that provides launch services for aircrafts and missiles. Silent Barker is a classified space situational awareness program by the Air Force Space Command and the National Reconnaissance Office. SBIRS (Space Based Infra Red Sensor) GEO is the geostationary component of the SBIRS-High program. The SBIRS-High satellite program is a key component of the USA’s future missile alert system, designed to give maximum warning and monitoring of ballistic missile launches anywhere in the world. The current contract will include launch vehicle production, mission integration, mission launch operations/spaceflight worthiness, and mission unique activities for Silent Barker and SBIRS GEO-5, with an option for an additional SBIRS GEO-6 launch service. Work will be performed at Centennial, Colorado; and Cape Canaveral, Florida. Silent Barker is expected to be completed by March 2022, and SBIRS GEO-5 is expected to be completed by March 2021. The Air Force divided $739 million in launch contracts between United Launch Services and SpaceX for six national security missions slated for 2021-2022.
The Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS)-High satellite program is a key component of the USA’s future missile alert system, designed to give maximum warning and monitoring of ballistic missile launches anywhere in the world. The new satellites will replace the existing Defense Support Program (DSP) fleet. Their infrared sensors have 3x the sensitivity of DSP and 2x the revisit rate, while providing better persistent coverage.
Unfortunately, the program has been beset by massive cost overruns on the order of 400%, technical challenges that continue to present problems, and uncertainties about performance. Despite these problems, the U.S. Air Force is proceeding with the program, and has terminated potential alternatives and supplements. However, as part of a January 2015 effort to institute cost reforms, the Air Force will weaken requirements for the program, and at least three other major procurement programs.
SBIRS – High: Current State
SBIRS: Budgets & Next Steps
Contracts and Key Events
FY 2014 – 2018
FY 2009 – 2015
Background: Space Vehicles
News & Views
Fill in the secure form below to activate your subscription right away (or pick another plan)