Written by Dabney B. on Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
When Ronald Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative, it was met with skepticism and mockery. Often called “Star Wars,” the SDI was considered by many to be a far-fetched goal rooted more in science fiction (emphasis on fiction) rather than reality.
Technology has advanced leaps and bounds since the Reagan era, and it appears as though many of the basic ideas behind the SDI may not be as impossible as we previously imagined. While we are still a long way from being able to shoot lasers out of a satellite to shoot down ICBMs, what we can use satellites for is to monitor and track global missile activity.
Lockheed Martin has just finished its Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) geosynchronous satellite, known as GEO-1. This satellite, which is already in orbit around earth, has already successfully submitted infrared data information and is undergoing rigorous testing to ensure that everything is working as intended.
The state-of-the-art GEO-1 should be able to track the infrared signature of missiles and monitor areas of interest with extreme precision and clarity. Not only will the GEO-1 provide the US with as much warning as possible that a missile has been launched, but it should also supply the right people with the right data so that a defense can be quickly mobilized.
The GEO-1 is by no means a one-trick satellite. In addition to advanced missile surveillance, the satellite will monitor battlespace conditions and convey the data to processing centers so that pilots and commanders will have up-to-date, accurate information about what lies ahead. Essentially, the GEO-1 will become the proverbial eyes in the skies for the Air Force.
The GEO-1 is the first planned SBIRS satellite, and many more are to follow it into orbit. Lockheed Martin is already making improvements to GEO-2, and the satellites GEO-3 and GEO-4 are also in the works. Once all four satellites are in the air, the US will be able to monitor a much wider portion of the globe and the satellites can work in concert to give even more accurate data to the USAF.
How many of our tax dollars are we launching into space to fuel all of this? These satellites come at a hefty cost, with each one wearing a price tag of about $1.3 billion, but considering the value of surveillance and the importance of our nation’s security, $5 billion for these satellites may very will turn out to be a worthwhile investment.
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