WASHINGTON, March 19 (RIA Novosti) – The United States launched on Tuesday a military satellite designed for infrared detection of ballistic missile launches, the US media reported.
GEO-2 is the second satellite in the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS), a US Air Force program developed to provide the United States with advance warning of potential nuclear attacks.
An Atlas V rocket lifted off at 16:21 EST (21:21 GMT) from Cape Canaveral space center in Florida, according to nasaspaceflight.com internet portal.
The satellite will be placed into a classified position on a geostationary orbit about 22,300 miles (36,000 km) above the Earth.
The first SBIRS GEO series satellite was orbited in 2011. The US Air Force hopes to have a total of six SBIRS satellites in orbit by 2016, the Denver Post reported on Tuesday.
"Our ability to provide strategic missile warning is critical to the nation's survival," Gen. William Shelton, Commander of Air Force Space Command, earlier said.
US efforts to bolster homeland missile defenses follow recent threats by North Korea to launch a preemptive nuclear attack against Washington after the United Nations voted for new sanctions against Pyongyang in response to February’s nuclear test.
The US military intends to deploy 14 additional interceptors in Alaska by 2017 to counter the threat and install a radar station in Japan for early tracking of North Korean missiles.
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