Atlas V Launch Delivers Fifth Satellite to Space Based Infrared System Constellation

Aerospace ensured mission success in the delivery of a vital missile warning and situational awareness satellite.

An Atlas V launch vehicle lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41 on May 18 and successfully delivered the fifth Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO-5) satellite to orbit. The SBIRS constellation provides global persistent, infrared surveillance in support of four national security mission areas: Missile Warning, Missile Defense, Technical Intelligence and Battlespace Awareness. The GEO-5 satellite is the first military satellite built on the Lockheed Martin modernized 2100 Combat Bus. All five SBIRS satellites have been launched on United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets.

The mission also included two 12U Multi-Manifest Satellite Vehicles (MSVs), EZ-3 and -4, provided by the U.S. Air Force Academy, which were carried in integrated multi-manifest carriers mounted on the Centaur CubeSat Express Aft Bulkhead Carrier. The two MSVs were successfully released shortly after completion of the first Centaur burn, prior to the deployment of the SBIRS space vehicle.

The launch, originally scheduled for May 17, was delayed one day to allow the launch team to address a concern with the liquid oxygen ground system that arose during the original launch attempt.  This launch marked the 87th successful launch of an Atlas V rocket, the 144th launch for United Launch Alliance (ULA), the fourth 421 configuration vehicle and the first Atlas V mission in 2021.

Atlas V launch
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the SBIRS GEO Flight 5 mission for the U.S Space Force's Space and Missile Systems Center lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 on May 18 at 1:37 p.m. EDT. Photo Credit: United Launch Alliance

As with prior National Security Space missions, Aerospace personnel conducted independent analyses and evaluations of the flight systems, working with the USSF to augment United Launch Alliance’s mission assurance process to ensure the continued National Security Space Launch program’s legacy of 100% mission success. Special attention was placed on first flight hardware items implemented for performance improvements and/or cost savings. The efforts included close engagement with ULA to close out several late breaking issues that delayed the roll to pad and booster fuel loading operations by one day, to May 15.

“My sincere thanks to our SMC and Aerospace teammates for your commitment to make the SBIRS GEO-5 launch a success!” Col Erin Gulden, Mission Director for the Atlas V SBIRS GEO-5 mission and Launch Enterprise chief of the Atlas V and Delta IV Division at the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, said of the team’s effort.  “Your diligence culminated in the delivery of a vital missile warning and situational awareness satellite and showcased flexible satellite integration and rapid responsiveness with the on-orbit insertion of the EZ-3 and EZ-4 payloads. Excellence isn’t achieved by accident. It is the result of setting high expectations and relentlessly pursing precision execution. Thank you for your unwavering commitment to excellence, outstanding teamwork, and selfless service to a grateful nation.”

The next Atlas V mission will be STP-3 in late June.