Boeing [BA] and its teammate Ball Aerospace Sept. 27 said they have acquired initial on-orbit signals from the first Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) satellite following its launch at 9:41 p.m. Pacific time on Sept. 25 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The signals indicate that the satellite is functioning normally and is ready to begin orbital maneuvers and operational testing.

"Every day, threats to our nation’s valuable satellites and space platforms are growing," Col. J.R. Jordan, vice commander, Space Superiority Systems Wing, U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center said. "SBSS will revolutionize our ability to find and monitor objects that could harm the space assets we depend on for security, communications, weather forecasting and many other essential services."

Once on orbit, SBSS will dramatically improve the accuracy and timeliness of space situational awareness for the United States. The satellite will be the Air Force’s only space-based sensor capable of detecting and monitoring debris, satellites and other space objects without limitations from weather, atmosphere or time of day.

"With its gimbaled camera, reprogrammable onboard processor and open ground system architecture, SBSS can respond quickly to today’s changing mission requirements and adapt to meet tomorrow’s threats as well," Craig Cooning, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems added. "Boeing looks forward to putting these advanced capabilities into action for the Air Force."

The Boeing team, including Ball Aerospace, delivered the groundbreaking SBSS system less than three years after the Air Force’s Critical Design Review. In May, the satellite was shipped from Ball Aerospace’s facility in Boulder, Colo., to Vandenberg Air Force Base. Since then, the SBSS team has completed three full launch countdown rehearsals with the launch team at Vandenberg Air Force Base and the mission-operation team in the SBSS Satellite Operations Center at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. The Air Force and the Boeing team completed the final mission operations dress rehearsal in June.

"Ball is proud to contribute to a program that will improve productivity and overall flexibility for space situational awareness," David Taylor, president and CEO of Ball Aerospace said. "SBSS is a critical component that will allow the Air Force to keep a sharper eye on developments that might threaten U.S. assets in space."

Boeing is responsible for overall program management; systems engineering and integration; design and development of the Satellite Operations Center; and system operations and maintenance. Ball Aerospace developed, designed, manufactured, integrated and tested the satellite, using the Boeing-built onboard mission data processor.