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SBIRS instructors hold keys to ground floor of new payload

Lockheed Martin's Space Based Infrared Systems team extensively tested the Highly Elliptical Orbit-1 payload at Northrop Grumman's Azusa, Calif., facility prior to launch. The HEO payload will scan a larger region than the current system for ballistic missile launches. Training will begin Jan. 12 and 16 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., for future SBIRS crews. (Lockheed Martin photo/Russ Underwood)

Lockheed Martin's Space Based Infrared Systems team extensively tested the Highly Elliptical Orbit-1 payload at Northrop Grumman's Azusa, Calif., facility prior to launch. The HEO payload will scan a larger region than the current system for ballistic missile launches. Training will begin Jan. 12 and 16 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., for future SBIRS crews. (Lockheed Martin photo/Russ Underwood)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 460th Operations Group Detachment 1 here will provide training and support for Space Based Infrared Systems students. Training will begin Jan. 12. The Airmen of 460th OG Det. 1 are, from left: (front) Staff Sgt. James Moore, Capt. Tom Roetzler, Staff Sgt. Travis Wright, Lt. Col. Myland Pride, Staff Sgts. Lori Browning, Tarah Norris, John Chavez and Narciso "Butch" Bautista; (rear) Capts. Paul Contoveros and Aaron Teltschik, Staff Sgt. Derek Miller, Capt. David Washer, Tech. Sgts. Joseph Johnson, Aaron Dickson and Tony Handy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 460th Operations Group Detachment 1 here will provide training and support for Space Based Infrared Systems students. Training will begin Jan. 12. The Airmen of 460th OG Det. 1 are, from left: (front) Staff Sgt. James Moore, Capt. Tom Roetzler, Staff Sgt. Travis Wright, Lt. Col. Myland Pride, Staff Sgts. Lori Browning, Tarah Norris, John Chavez and Narciso "Butch" Bautista; (rear) Capts. Paul Contoveros and Aaron Teltschik, Staff Sgt. Derek Miller, Capt. David Washer, Tech. Sgts. Joseph Johnson, Aaron Dickson and Tony Handy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Future Space Based Infrared System crews will get in on the ground level of Air Force Space Command's most advanced payload when they begin training at the 460th Operations Group's Detachment 1 on Jan. 12.

Training on SBIRS' newest satellite will give students a historic chance to involve themselves with a new mission at the ground level, said Capt. Paul, Det. 1's chief of operations training and lead instructor.

"I think we're all really excited to be part of such a new, groundbreaking system," Captain Paul said. "It's a once-in-a-career opportunity.

"We'll be providing some of the most accurate missile warning data once this is complete -- even better than (the Defense Support Program satellite system)," he added. "DSP's a proven system, extremely useful. This will be a step above that; it will provide more honed, more accurate data."

The SBIRS satellite is parked in an inclined and highly elliptical orbit, which carries it from 300 miles above the earth to geosynchronous orbit and back every 12 hours. This gives operators better data at higher latitudes on the earth's surface. It is also more sensitive, allowing Airmen to detect fainter missile launches and pinpoint them with greater accuracy.

"In addition, we have a taskable sensor," Captain Paul said. "We can point the sensor wherever we like to capture targets of opportunity." The taskable sensor makes the new SBIRS satellite unique within AFSPC, something the captain said he hopes students will enjoy.

Ten Airmen from around AFSPC, many of them cross-trainees, will begin training on SBIRS. Training will begin Jan.12 for crew commanders and crew chiefs. System crew chiefs and mission-management operators and planners will begin training Jan. 16.

Each position will learn something different in the class, Captain Contoveros said. System crew chiefs will learn the ins and outs of the payload and ground system. Mission crew chiefs will learn how to translate technical data from the satellite into missile warning and battlespace situational awareness. Mission-management operators and planners will learn how to use the taskable sensor. Crew commanders will learn all other aspects of the mission and how to combine the parts into an effective team.

"We're working closely with our partners at the (SBIRS) Combined Task Force (in northern Colorado)," the captain said. Students will visit the task force for one week to learn what aspects of SBIRS have changed since the Det. 1 instructors finished their lesson plan. The instructors meet once a week with the Combined Task Force to talk about new SBIRS developments.

"The training will continue to evolve because we're still in a testing phase," he said. "Things change from day to day. Software continues to be honed. Testing continues to be successful, and as testing is successful, new tests begin, and procedures and software change depending on the results."

The new SBIRS satellite received a clean bill of health in November after space operators completed initial early on-orbit checkout of the satellite's systems.

The sensor is designed to detect ballistic missile launches such as ICBMs and Scud missiles. It can also detect large explosions and fires, which may make it a valuable tool for other government agencies.

A second highly elliptical-orbit satellite was delivered in September 2005; the launch date has not been released. Two SBIRS geosynchronous satellites are scheduled to launch in 2008 and 2009.