​United Launch Alliance Atlas V SBIRS GEO 3 Launch.

On Friday January 20th, United Launch Alliance (ULA) kicked off 2017 with the first successful launch of the year from the Cape Canaveral, Florida with support from the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing. ULA launched the SBIRS GEO-3 satellite into orbit with the Atlas V rocket just after 7:46 p.m. local time from Space Launch Complex-41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Enjoy the 360 degree photo below of the launch. We captured this long exposure rocket streak from the south-side of the world famous Cocoa Beach Pier.

ULA Atlas V SBIRS GEO-3 Launch from Cape Canaveral
Click on the image to view 360 degree interactive photo.

About the SBIRS GEO-3

SBIRS stands for Space Based Infrared System. The satellite is a consolidated system for the United States infrared space surveillance. The $1.2 billion satellite built by Lockheed Martin, the SBIRS GEO-3 is deployed for use by the US military to detect missile launches and to provide other tactical support.

The Space Based Infrared Systems Geosynchronous Earth Orbit spacecraft will mark the third SBIRS satellite to be launched from CCAFS since 2011 and continues the replacement of the Defense Support Program constellation which has been in operation since 1970.

The Space Based Infrared System is considered one of the nation’s highest priority space programs and is designed to provide global, persistent, infrared surveillance capabilities to meet 21st century demands in four national security mission areas:

Missile Warning

Reliable, unambiguous, timely and accurate warning for theater and strategic missile launches.

Missile Defense

Delivery of critical information supporting the effective operation of missile defense systems.

Technical Intelligence

Ability to characterize infrared (IR) event signatures, phenomenology and threat performance data.

Battlespace Awareness

Delivery of comprehensive IR data to help characterize battlespace conditions.

The SBIRS GEO-3 team is led by the Remote Sensing Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor, with Northrop Grumman as the payload integrator. Air Force Space Command operates the SBIRS system

About the Atlas V Rocket

Payload Fairing (PLF)

The SBIRS satellite is encapsulated in the 4-m (14-ft) diameter large payload fairing (LPF). The LPF is a bisector (two-piece shell) fairing consisting of aluminum skin/stringer construction with vertical split-line longerons. The vehicle’s height with the LPF is approximately 194 ft.


The Centaur second stage is 10 ft in diameter and 41.5 ft long. Its propellant tanks are constructed of pressure-stabilized, corrosion resistant stainless steel. Centaur is a liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen- (cryogenic-) fueled vehicle. It uses a single RL10C-1 engine producing 22,900 lb of thrust. The cryogenic tanks are insulated with a combination of helium-purged insulation blankets, radiation shields, and spray-on foam insulation (SOFI). The Centaur forward adapter (CFA) provides the structural mountings for the fault-tolerant avionics system and the structural and electronic interfaces with the spacecraft.


The Atlas V booster is 12.5 ft in diameter and 106.5 ft long. The booster’s tanks are structurally stable and constructed of isogrid aluminum barrels, spun-formed aluminum domes and intertank skirts. Atlas booster propulsion is provided by the RD-180 engine system (a single engine with two thrust chambers). The RD-180 burns RP-1 (Rocket Propellant-1 or highly purified kerosene) and liquid oxygen, and delivers 860,200 lb of thrust at sea level. The Atlas V booster is controlled by the Centaur avionics system which provides guidance, flight control and vehicle sequencing functions during the booster and Centaur phases of flight.

SBIRS GEO-3 mission overview – ULA Mission Overview PDF

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