Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR)
Air Force’s next-generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Block 0 missile-warning satellites. The constellation is designed to succeed the Space-Based Infrared System and be more survivable and resilient against emerging threats.
The Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) are accelerating global missile warning capabilities for the warfighter, the American people, and its allies by embracing rapid space acquisitions via a transformation to what it calls “SMC 2.0.” SMC’s Space Development Corps’ Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next Gen OPIR) mission area has embraced SMC 2.0 by serving as an Air Force “pacesetter” program leading the charge to rapidly acquire and deliver global missile warning to warfighters through rapid acquisition. Next Gen OPIR Geosynchronous Earth Orbiting (GEO) is the next evolution of the legacy Space Based Infrared System program that will provide a capable, resilient, and defensible space-based global missile warning capability against emerging threats.
SMC’s Space Development Corps and prime contractor, Lockheed Martin (LM) Space, completed a Next Gen OPIR GEO System Requirements Review (SRR) for Next Gen GEO-1/2/3 space vehicles on March 5-7. They accomplished two separate main mission payload System Design Reviews (SDR) with Lockheed Martin’s subcontractors Raytheon on 4-5 April 2019 and a Northrop Grumman-Ball Aerospace team April 11-13. In order to reduce schedule and technical program risks, LM has the two mission payload subcontractors designing, developing, and prototyping missile warning sensors in a competitive environment to maximize the use of parallel design, development, and test processes. The two payload suppliers were selected in September 2018, just 45 days after the Next Gen OPIR program started, further embracing the program’s rapid acquisition requirements.
The successful completion of the SRR/SDRs demonstrated a solid understanding of the mission, requirements, current design, risks and plans for work moving foward, enabling the Next Gen OPIR GEO program to proceed with preliminary design activities. Subject to funding decisions, the program remains on track to achieve a GEO space vehicle delivery by Fiscal Year 2025.
“The biggest improvement to Next Gen OPIR GEOs-1/2/3 is fielding a more robust global missile warning system with greater sensitivity, responsiveness, and resiliency to be capable of operating in contested environments to maintain space superiority into the 21st century,” said Lt Col. Leroy Brown, Jr., deputy chief of SMC’s Space Development Corps’ Next Gen OPIR Division. “These enhancements will ensure the missile warning constellation continues to provide resilient, survivable, and endurable missile warning as the foundation to deterrence for our nation.” Next Gen OPIR GEOs-1/2/3 will leverage the LM 2100 common satellite bus that is used across multiple Lockheed Martin programs and mission areas. The LM 2100 has recently been enhanced to add capabilities that benefit multiple mission areas to include OPIR. Bus enhancements include elimination of obsolesence and insertion of modern electronics in multiple subsystems, as well as increased resiliency capabilities that are all appilicable to the Next Gen OPIR mission.
The concept of agile acquisition is central to SMC 2.0’s vision of delivering innovative, war-winning capabilities. It will require a culture change at all levels of Air Force space, from the SMC systems engineering processes all the way through the training paths Space Operators will need to navigate to operate these new missile warning systems and capabilities. The combined Government and contractor team is maintaining great momentum and addressing risks early to maintain rapid program execution.
“The Next Gen OPIR team is embracing SMC 2.0 because we have to be focused on faster deliveries through enhancing enterprise, integration, partnerships, innovation, culture (EPIC) and speed to accelerate capabilities to warfighters,” said Col Frederick Hunt, Chief of SMC’s Space Development Corps’ Next Gen OPIR Division. “The combined team has been taking calculated risks to accept fast failure and fast learning with EPIC speed and will serve as the model for every single mission we support across SMC and represents the future of space acquisitions.” The SRR/SDRs were led by SMC’s Space Development Corps and attended by observers from the Air Force Space Command, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisitions, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Lockheed Martin Space, and other stakeholders. During the reviews, SMC Space Development Corps’ Program Office formally declared Lockheed Martin demonstrated the design maturity required to authorize the continuation of preliminary design review efforts for Next Gen GEOs-1/2/3.
SMC’s Space Development Corps manages the Next Gen OPIR GEO program. Lockheed Martin Space, Sunnyvale, California, is the prime contractor; Raytheon, El Segundo, California and a Northorp Grumman Ball-Aerospace team, Azusa, California, are the payload developers.
The 460th Space Wing at Buckley AFB in Aurora, Colorado, operates the missile warning constellation. The Next Gen OPIR GEO mission enhances global missile warning launch detection capability and supports the nation’s ballistic missile defense system, technical intelligence gathering capability and situational awareness for warfighters on the battlefield.
In an imaging spacecraft, an attitude control subsystem’s function is to orient the spacecraft’s body to acquire a target through the use of an actuator. In practice, reaction wheels commonly perform this function by producing a reactive torque on the spacecraft. Consequently, due to the static and dynamic imbalances in individual reaction wheels, an undesired vibration, called jitter, is generated during operation and causes variations in the spacecraft’s attitude.
For U.S. space capabilities, overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) is a critical element that employs sensors in the infrared band, which provides essential data for national decision- and policy-makers. OPIR’s role in space force enhancement facilitates reconnaissance, missile tracking, and launch detection. Information gathered from OPIR assets help detect, track, and characterize the adversary’s assets.
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