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SAIC Helps Launch Commercially-Hosted Infrared Payload Sensor for U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center

Sept. 23, 2011


Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) announced that the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), SES Government Solutions, Orbital Sciences Corporation (Orbital), and SAIC team has successfully launched the Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload (CHIRP) sensor into space. The CHIRP sensor has been integrated onto a commercial telecommunications satellite, the first time a USAF payload has been hosted on a commercial mission.


The CHIRP sensor was developed by scientists on the Third Generation Infrared System (3GIRS) Risk Reduction team for SMC and Air Force Research Laboratory.

The sensor uses a telescope to persistently view a quarter of the Earth from geosynchronous orbit, which matches the Earth's rotation so it appears in the same place in the sky. Its large format focal plane array accommodates a wide-field-of-view infrared staring system to sense bright spots on the surface of the Earth that aid in the early warning of missile launches and to support other military missions.  The sensor will be remotely commanded and monitored by staff located at the SAIC-developed CHIRP Mission Analysis Center (CMAC) in Seal Beach, Calif. The CHIRP sensor data will be securely transmitted to a government facility, as well as CMAC, for mission data processing and evaluation of the sensor.


Upgraded from a ground prototype and delivered in less than two years, CHIRP finished payload-level testing in July 2010 and was transported to Orbital's facility in Sterling, Va. It was then integrated onto SES' SES-2 telecommunications satellite.

"The launch of CHIRP represents years of dedicated research, design development, and testing performed by SAIC, SMC, SES Government Solutions and Orbital," said Stu Shea, SAIC group president. "This program is an example for how the government can cut costs by more than 50 percent in the future by taking advantage of hosted payloads to augment missions."