By Marina Malenic

The Air Force has successfully completed a major space-to-ground interface and functional system test for the first geosynchronous (GEO-1) satellite of a new early missile warning system.

The test, known as 5001.4, demonstrated the capability to transmit data between the spacecraft and flight control facilities and the ability of the SBIRS GEO-1 integrated ground and space system to perform critical operations, according to prime contractor Lockheed Martin [LMT].

“SBIRS GEO-1 has successfully completed all system environmental tests, its Final Integrated System Test, and now with the completion of the 5001.4 test, we have the utmost confidence that this first-of-its-kind spacecraft will fulfill its mission requirements,” Col. Roger Teague, the Air Force’s program manager for SBIRS, said in a statement released Jan. 31.

“We are on-track to meet our scheduled spring 2011 launch date,” he added.

SBIRS GEO-1 is scheduled to blast off aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

SBIRS is the next-generation U.S. early missile warning system. It is expected to replace the legacy Defense Support Program satellite. SBIRS has both scanning and staring sensors and is expected to provide new tactical support capabilities in addition to its strategic mission (Defense Daily, July 6.)

Contractors and military engineers are expected now to perform final spacecraft component installations and conduct a final factory confidence test on GEO-1. They will also complete final updates to ground software and command elements, according to a statement released by Lockheed Martin. Qualification of the satellite’s flight software is on track for completion later this month, the company said.

SBIRS Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) payloads have already been launched aboard classified satellites and are meeting or exceeding performance requirements, according to Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin’s original SBIRS contract includes HEO payloads, two GEO satellites, as well as ground-based assets to receive and process the infrared data. The company is also under a follow-on production contract to deliver additional HEO payloads, third and fourth GEO satellites and associated ground modifications.

Last year, GEO-2 completed integration of its two equipment panels onto the spacecraft core module (Defense Daily, Oct. 21). GEO-2 is scheduled for launch in 2012, according to Air Force Space Command.

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

Northrop Grumman [NOC] is the SBIRS payload integrator, and Air Force Space Command is the operator.