The Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) is a consolidated system intended to meet the United States' infrared space surveillance needs through the first two to three decades of the 21st century. The SBIRS program is designed to provide key capabilities in the areas of missile warning, missile defense and battlespace characterization.
SBIRS is an integrated "system of systems" that will include satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO), sensors hosted on satellites in highly elliptical orbit (HEO), and ground-based data processing and control.
The SBIRS GEO satellites have both a scanning and a "staring" sensor. The scanning sensor provides continuous observation and surveillance for intercontinental ballistic missile launch detection. The staring sensor has better sensitivity and a faster revisit rate and is able to detect very low signature, short-range theater ballistic missiles. Both sensors have the ability to detect natural disasters, such as wildfires and volcanic eruptions. The dual sensor payload, with the ability to independently task the sensors, allows the satellite to rapidly and repeatedly provide global scans for infrared activity while simultaneously staring at specific areas of interest.