By Marina Malenic

The first geosynchronous Space-based Infrared System (SBIRS) missile-warning satellite is expected to provide new tactical support capabilities in addition to its strategic mission, the Air Force program manager for the system has said.

“One of the inherent capabilities that the SBIRS system has is…a staring sensor that can be tasked to stare at a specific region to provide a more focused and detailed view of that area,” Air Force Col. Roger Teague said in a June 24 webinar hosted by Via Satellite.

Teague said this capability provides a “bird’s-eye view of a battlefield” and “actionable information” quickly.

SBIRS has both scanning and staring sensors.

Air Force and Lockheed Martin [LMT] engineers in May completed system testing on the first SBIRS geosynchronous satellite, now planned for delivery to Cape Canaveral, Fla., in March 2011.

Teague is the commander of the SBIRS Wing of the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles, Calif., and manages both the legacy Defense Support Program (DSP) and the SBIRS follow-on effort.

Teague has said SBIRS GEO-1 still has a shot at making the FY ’11 launch manifest despite the additional three-month delivery delay, which he said was caused by extended testing of a flight software redesign that began in 2007 (Defense Daily, June 7).

The SBIRS constellation of infrared satellites for detection and tracking of ballistic missiles in their boost phases is someday expected to replace the decades-old DSP constellation, which currently serves as the main U.S. early-warning system for missile launches around the world. The Air Force has launched two SBIRS sensors on classified satellites, but the service is behind schedule on plans to launch a geosynchronous constellation, starting with GEO-1 and GEO-2.

The GEO-2 satellite continues to make progress, officials have said. GEO-2 has completed its first phase of satellite-level testing. During the four-month event, called baseline integrated system testing, the Air Force ran the satellite through hundreds of scripted test events at Lockheed Martin’s plant in Sunnyvale, Calif.

GEO-1 is expected be available for operational use about 14 months following launch. GEO-2’s availability is projected at six months after launch, according to Air Force fact sheets on the program.