The Air Force and United Launch Alliance (ULA) on Friday launched the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO-3 satellite.

Liftoff took place at 7:42 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on an Atlas V rocket. The satellite established communications with ground systems shortly after.

Photo: NASA.
Photo: NASA.

SBIRS GEO-3 is equipped with powerful scanning and staring sensors that collect and transmit infrared surveillance information to ground stations. This information is used by the Pentagon to detect missile launches, support ballistic missile defense (BMD), expand technical intelligence gathering and bolster situational awareness on the battlefield.

The next satellite, SBIRS GEO-4, will undergo final assembly, integration and test prior to its planned 2017 launch. SBIRS GEO-5 and GEO-6 are currently in production.

SBIRS GEO-3 was developed by Lockheed Martin [LMT]. ULA is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing [BA].