SBIRS - Space Based Infrared

Product Type:

Missile Early Warning
and Defense Satellite System

Using Service (US):

Air Force (USAF)

Program Status:

In Production

Prime Contractors:

Lockheed Martin Corporation

Specifications DoD Spending FY2015 Budget

SBIRS Satellite

About the SBIRS Program:

The Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) is a satellite system providing data for missile surveillance, missile defense, technical intelligence, and battlespace awareness. SBIRS will field a constellation of satellites in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) and hosted payloads in Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) with an integrated centralized ground station serving all SBIRS space elements. The SBIRS will replace the Defense Support Program (DSP) System as a key element of U.S. missile early warning and defense systems.

SBIRS will provide critical functions for protecting the United States and its allies by supporting four mission areas: Missile Warning (MW), Missile Defense (MD), Battlespace Awareness (BA), and Technical Intelligence (TI). SBIRS is designed to perform these missions well into the 21st century.

The SBIRS constellation will consist of infrared (IR) sensor payloads on host satellites in Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) and two IR sensors each on dedicated SBIRS satellites in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO). The HEO sensor is designed to detect submarine-launched ballistic missiles from the north polar region and can be tasked to perform other IR detection missions as well. The GEO scanning sensor is designed to perform the strategic missile warning mission, global technical intelligence, as well as the initial phase of the strategic missile defense mission. The GEO scanning sensor provides a shorter revisit time and greater sensitivity than the DSP sensor over its full field of view. The GEO staring sensor is designed to perform the theater missile warning and missile defense missions, the battlespace awareness mission, the technical intelligence mission in focus areas, and the final phase of the strategic missile defense mission. It provides step-stare or dedicated stare operations over smaller geographic regions than the scanning sensor.

The SBIRS team is led by the Infrared Space Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) operates the SBIRS system. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor on the SBIRS program, while Northrop Grumman (subcontractor) is the payload integrator. Northrop Grumman for example supplies the SBIRS GEO satellites' navigation system, the so-called Scalable Space Inertial Reference Unit (Scalable SIRU) for sensor pointing/stabilization and attitude control.

The first HEO payload was operational in December 2008. In July 2013, Lockheed Martin delivered the third HEO payload. The first GEO satellite (GEO-1) was launched in May 2011 followed by GEO-2 on March 19, 2013. SBIRS GEO-3 and GEO-4 will be delivered in September 2015 and September 2016, respectively.

On June 24, 2014, the Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.86 billion contract to complete the production of GEO-5 and GEO-6. On October 15, 2014, Northrop Grumman received a $422 million contract from Lockheed Martin to produce sensor payloads for GEO-5 and GEO-6.

Price/Unit Cost:

Please refer to downloadable budget data below.

Total Cost - Life of Program (LoP):

The total procurement cost of the SBIRS program is $6.57 billion (official DoD estimate) + $10.19 billion in research and development (RDT&E) funds, which means the total estimated program cost is $16.76 billion (numbers are aggregated annual funds spent over the life of the program and no price/inflation adjustment was made). This figure excludes military construction (MILCON) and Operations & Maintenance (O&M) funding in support of the program in the amount of $57.0 million and $161.1 million, respectively.


The SBIRS provides initial warning of ballistic missile launches.

FY 2014 SBIRS DoD Program:

Continues incremental funding for procurement of the GEO-5 and GEO-6 satellites, and continues the Space Modernization Initiative (SMI) RDT&E activities. SMI will reduce future production costs by improving insertion of new technologies to replace obsolete parts and materials.

FY 2015 SBIRS DoD Program:

Continues funding for procurement of the GEO-5 and GEO-6 satellites, and continues the Space Modernization Initiative (SMI) development activities to reduce future production costs by improving insertion of new technologies to replace obsolete parts and materials.

For more information, click to see the USAF FY 2015 SBIRS DoD Budget.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Lockheed Martin Corp.,
and Northrop Grumman Corp.

Last Update: December 9, 2014.

By Joakim Kasper Oestergaard Balle /// (

External Resources:

Lockheed Martin: SBIRS
Northrop Grumman: SBIRS

YouTube: Space Based Infrared System | YouTube Videos

Brochure: Space Based Infrared System | Brochure
Fact Sheet: SBIRS GEO | Fact Sheet
Fact Sheet: SBIRS HEO | Fact Sheet

Total SBIRS Program Cost:

  $16.76 billion  ($6.57B procurement + $10.19B RDT&E)

SBIRS Procurement Objective:

  6 satellites  (4 production and 2 development)

SBIRS U.S. Defense Budget Charts:

DoD Spending on the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) in FY 2011, FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2014 and FY 2015
DoD Purchases of SBIRS Satellites in FY 2011, FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2014 and FY 2015
Defense Budget Data

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DoD Spending, Procurement and RDT&E: FY 2011/12/13 + Budget for FYs 2014 + 2015

DoD Defense Spending, Procurement, Modifications, Spares, and RDT&E for the SBIRS Program

Download Official U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Budget Data:

Purchases of SBIRS Satellites and Associated Equipment (USAF)

Specifications: Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS)

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Primary Function: Missile warning, missile defense, battlespace awareness, and technical intelligence.
Prime Contractor: Lockheed Martin Corp.
Launch Weight (GEO): 10,656 lbs (4,833 kg) max wet weight at launch
On-orbit Weight (GEO): 5,603 lbs (2,547 kg) initial on-orbit estimated wet weight
Weight (HEO): 536 lbs (243 kg)
Orbit Altitude (GEO): Approximately 22,300 miles (35,970 km)
Orbit Altitude (HEO): Classified
Power (GEO): Requires approximately 2,361 watts (working power at end of life)
Power (HEO): Payload requires approximately 345 watts (maximum average)
Dimensions (GEO): 7 ft x 6.3 ft x 19.7 ft (stowed), 48.6 ft x 22.4 ft x 19.7 ft (deployed)
Dimensions (HEO): 6.8 ft x 3.9 ft x 2.9 ft
Deployed (GEO): First launch in May 2011
Certified (HEO): December 5, 2008

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