U.S. Space Force’s SBIRS GEO-5 Satellite Enters Critical Thermal Vacuum Testing

The U.S. Space Force (USSF)’s next Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) missile warning satellite, the SBIRS GEO-5, reached a major milestone when the Thermal Vacuum (TVAC) testing began on April 16 at Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Sunnyvale, California.

The start of TVAC testing is a major milestone that drives the final testing and assembly of the space vehicle.

According to a statement by the USSF Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), the SMC’s Production Corps and its industry partner Lockheed Martin Space work in close collaboration to achieve this major milestone for the program. The statement added that Lockheed Martin Space overcame COVID-19 related challenges to maintain assembly and test operations with minimal impacts.

SBIRS GEO-5 TVAC Testing
The SBIRS GEO-5 satellite enters a vacuum chamber at Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale, California, production facility to begin Thermal Vacuum testing, April 16, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

TVAC testing simulates the space environment by producing a near vacuum and cycling through hot and cold temperature ranges that the satellite will experience through various stages of its orbit and seasonal cycles. This critical testing verifies that all satellite components are operating correctly and meet strict requirements and standards under all conditions.

“TVAC testing represents the culmination of hundreds of thousands of hours of work by both the government and Lockheed Martin Space ensuring that we are giving the warfighter a national asset. I am proud of the men and women of the SBIRS program and their families for the years of sacrifice to get us to this point.” said Lt. Col. Ryan Laughton, SBIRS GEO-5/6 program manager.

SBIRS GEO-5 is a high-priority U.S. Space Force program that provides worldwide missile warning capability for the U.S. military.

SBIRS uses infrared surveillance to provide missile warning for national defense. The system consists of a constellation of satellites in both Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) and Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO). The newest SBIRS satellites, GEO-5 and GEO-6, are based upon Lockheed Martin Space’s modernized LM 2100 spacecraft – an update that improves overall system resiliency to provide mission assurance to the warfighter.

SBIRS GEO-5 is expected to launch in 2021.



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