September 28, 2016 – The Air Force and Lockheed Martin teams successfully completed planned pre-fueling testing and inspections of the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO) Flight-3 Satellite currently located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Fueling of the satellite and the launch, originally scheduled for October 3, was delayed on September 10 by Lt Gen Samuel Greaves, SMC commander and Air Force Program Executive Officer for Space (PEO/Space) to give the SBIRS government/contractor engineering team time to investigate a potential parts issue discovered on two other non-SBIRS satellites.
Earlier this month, a non-Lockheed Martin commercial satellite experienced a similar anomaly to the July MUOS-5 event. The Air Force is working to understand the commonality between the two anomalous engines and the SBIRS design. The SBIRS satellite remains safe at the launch base.
A preliminary review of the data suggested a possible issue with the liquid apogee engines. A Liquid Apogee Engine is used by the SBIRS satellite to provide the thrust required to raise the satellite to the proper orbit after the spacecraft has been released from the launch vehicle.
To date, the joint government and industry team has reviewed approximately 90% of the design, build, and test data from the anomalies. Additionally, all design similarities between the SBIRS liquid apogee engines and the anomalous engines have been fully documented and are understood. The team expects to complete the investigation within the next couple of weeks.
The launch is not expected earlier than January due to launch scheduling and to allow the investigation to continue until the Air Force is satisfied that safety of the satellite is assured.
“Assured access to space is a prime National Security Space directive. A fundamental part of assured access to space is safely getting our satellites to orbit which is extraordinarily challenging and technical,” said Greaves. “Ensuring the safety of our national security space assets is critical and we will extensively investigate all possible causes before launching the SBIRS GEO-3 satellite.”