Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit-6 (SBIRS GEO-6), the final SBIRS satellite, is ready for launch early next year, as the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC) and Lockheed Martin [LMT] said that construction finished ahead of schedule.

Col. Matt Spencer, the GEO/Polar Division Senior Materiel Leader in SSC’s Production Corps, said in a Sept. 29 statement that the hastened production at Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale, Calif., plant  “is nothing short of remarkable given the entire integration and test campaign was done under the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“SBIRS GEO-6 will begin final preparations for a scheduled launch in the first half of 2022 on a United Launch Alliance [ULA] Atlas V 421 (four-meter payload fairing, two strap-on solid rocket motors, and one upper stage engine) launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida,” SSC said.

ULA is a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Boeing [BA].

The SBIRS GEO-5, launched in May, and SBIRS GEO-6 are the latest missile warning satellites in GEO and Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) and rely on Lockheed Martin’s LM 2100 bus to provide overhead persistent infrared detection and tracking.

Lockheed Martin said on Oct. 1 that it finished SBIRS GEO-6 construction “nearly a month ahead of schedule” and that SBIRS GEO-6 is in storage awaiting launch.

“On Sept. 2, 2021, the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command determined that the SBIRS GEO-6 was complete,” per Lockheed Martin. “The satellite went into storage nearly a month ahead of its Sept. 30 Acquisition Program Baseline (APB) requirement date.”

Lockheed Martin has said that the LM 2100 bus provides improved resilience, cyber protection, spacecraft power, propulsion and electronics and a flexible design for future upgrades.

“The SBIRS GEO-5 space vehicle continues to prove itself,” per the company. “In June 2021, SBIRS GEO-5 turned on its powerful sensors for the first time during space vehicle checkout and transmitted its first images back to Earth in a milestone known as ‘First Light.'”

Tom McCormick, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for Overhead Persistent Infrared Systems, said in a statement that the LM2100 provides “production efficiency, enhanced resiliency options and so much more flexibility for additional payloads and sensors.”

“From the LM2100, we’ve really been able to enhance resiliency developing a ‘Combat Bus’ and a bridge to achieving the resilient missile warning required for the Space Force’s Next-Gen OPIR Block 0 System,” he said.

On Aug. 20, the Lockheed Martin design for the GEO satellites for Block 0 of the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR) program passed Critical Design Review (CDR), SSC said (Defense Daily, Aug. 24). The CDR consisted of 34 subsystem and payload reviews.

The Next Gen OPIR GEO satellites are to integrate a new OPIR sensor with an enhanced LM 2100 common satellite bus, SSC said.

The first Next-Gen OPIR GEO satellite is to launch in 2025. Lockheed Martin won the non-competitive, sole-source contract worth $2.9 billion to develop the three Next-Gen OPIR GEO satellites in August 2018 and a follow-on $4.9 billion contract in January.

Northrop Grumman [NOC] is also building two polar orbit satellites for missile warning under Block O of Next-Gen OPIR and received a nearly $2.4 billion contract in May last year for early hardware procurement for the satellites.

Next Gen OPIR is to improve upon existing Lockheed Martin Space Based Infrared System satellites by providing a resilient missile warning capability against emerging missile and counter-space threats.

The full-up CDR system review for Next-Gen OPIR Block 0 GEO is slated in the next month or two.

The USSF wants more than $2.4 billion in research and development for Next-Gen OPIR in fiscal 2022, $132 million more than the fiscal 2021 enacted amount (Defense Daily, May 28).