U.S. Air Force begins using Boeing surveillance satellite

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 20, 2012 8:30 PM
U.S. Air Force begins using Boeing surveillance satellite

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force on Monday said it would begin operational use of a new Boeing Co surveillance satellite built to monitor debris and other satellites in space -- nearly two years after the satellite was first launched.

Air Force Space Command said the new Space Based Surveillance Satellite system had achieved its initial level of capability and was ready to support U.S. military requirements after a delay linked to a piece of electronics on board.

The system is the only space-based sensor capable of detecting and monitoring debris, satellites and other space objects without disruptions from weather, atmospheric factors or the time of day that can limit ground-based systems.

"This improved access to observe orbiting objects significantly enhances the ability to provide timely, critical information so desperately needed to support warfighter decision making," the Air Force said in a statement.

When the satellite was launched in September 2010, Boeing predicted it would be ready to perform its mission within 60 days, but its "initial operational capability" was delayed by problems with some onboard electronics.

The problem occurred when the satellite traveled through the South Atlantic Anomaly, an area where the Earth's magnetic field is weakest and orbiting satellites are exposed to higher than usual levels of radiation.

The Air Force began implementing a fix for the issue in May, followed by successful software testing that allowed it to start using the satellite.

The new satellite will help the military better track other satellites in space and thousands of bits of debris that could pose a risk to spacecraft.

(Reporting By Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Michael Perry)