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HEO Automation Pathfinder in Early Developmental Use Period


Supplemented by legacy satellites from the Defense Support Program, the Space Based Infrared System constellation is made up of Geosynchronous satellites, and sensors in Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO).  Those HEO sensors recently marked a major milestone in the effort to extend their useful life with the completion of the HEO Automation Pathfinder (HAP) Test and Transition period and entrance into the Automated Early Development Use (Auto-EDU) period.  The system now has the capability to execute continuous automated surveillance tasking with a HEO sensor to provide early use data to the technical intelligence community.

HAP enables automated Telemetry, Tracking, and Commanding (TT&C) of HEO sensors during flight and will monitor payload state of health during on-orbit operations.  The automation software simplifies operations, reduces manning requirements, and reduces costs associated with sustainment and pre-operations support. Additionally, HAP will allow other HEO sensors to be used for research and development well past the end of their program design life.

“The SBIRS HEO sensors are multimillion dollar pieces of equipment that provide the critical function of gathering Overhead Persistent Infrared Data over remote regions” said Col. Dennis Bythewood, director of the Remote Sensing Systems Directorate.  “The HAP project was originally conceived to extend the operational utility of HEO sensor payloads.  The successful completion of the HAP test, transition period and entrance into steady automated use will help ensure that these HEO payloads will provide valuable data long after originally planned.”

HAP Auto-EDU period will allow for the transmission and sharing data with mission partners and the Remote Sensing Directorate developed the HAP Neptune software with the help of numerous other agencies.  This included work with the Naval Research Lab’s Neptune Common Ground Architecture software for automated TT&C, as well as the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) for joint mission management initiative integration, and National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) who developed HAP applications and benefits to the battlespace awareness and technical intelligence mission areas. 

The Remote Sensing Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center manages the SBIRS program. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Sunnyvale, California, is the SBIRS prime contractor, and Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, Azusa, California, is the payload integrator. The 460th Space Wing at Buckley AFB in Aurora, Colorado, operates the SBIRS system. The SBIRS program delivers timely, reliable and accurate missile-warning and infrared surveillance information to the president of the United States, the secretary of defense, combatant commanders, the intelligence community and other key decision makers. The system enhances global missile launch detection capability, supports the nation’s ballistic missile defense system, expands the country’s technical intelligence gathering capacity and bolsters situational awareness for warfighters on the battlefield.



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