ULA launches the last SBIRS U.S. Space Force missile cautioning satellite

ULA launches the last SBIRS U.S. Space Force missile cautioning satellite

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket conveying a U.S. Space Force missile-cautioning satellite took off Aug. 4 at 6:29 a.m. Eastern from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.

The SBIRS GEO-6 mission was the sixth and last of the Space Based Infrared System constellation of geosynchronous satellites equipped with scanning and staring infrared sensors to recognize ballistic missile launches anyplace on the globe.

The satellite is being sent to a customized geosynchronous transfer circle roughly 22,000 miles over the equator

After separation from the primary stage about five minutes after takeoff, the Centaur started the first of three arranged motor firings to convey SBIRS GEO 6 to the planned circle about two hours and 45 minutes after takeoff.

The vehicle's first stage was controlled by a RD-180 motor and two solid rocket boosters. The Centaur upper stage was fueled by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1-1 motor

The SBIRS satellites are made by Lockheed Martin. The $1 billion GEO-6 is built on the LM 2100 bus and carries a sensor payload created by Northrop Grumman. The first SBIRS GEO-1 launched in May 2011.

SBIRS GEO-6 was the 95th mission of the Atlas 5, a workhorse rocket that ULA plans to resign soon as it seeks to end its dependence on the Russian RD-180 motor. While it transitions to another vehicle, Vulcan Centaur, ULA still has 19 leftover missions under agreement for the Atlas 5, said Gary Wentz, ULA's VP of government and business programs. 

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