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Near-Field IR Experiment Launched
Apr 2007
FAIRFAX, Va., April 24 -- The Near Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE), built by General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, was launched into low earth orbit today from the NASA facility at Wallops Island, Va.

The primary mission of the NFIRE satellite is to collect high and low resolution images of a boosting rocket to improve understanding of missile exhaust "plume" observations and plume-to-rocket body discrimination during three plume signature types: targets of opportunity, dedicated missile fly-bys, and ground observations. Targets of opportunity may include aircraft flights, space launches, and missile tests at a viewing distance of 60 to 600 miles.

There will be two scheduled flybys later this year by missiles launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Ground observations may include bright burning events such as forest fires, volcanoes, and static (on-ground) tests of rocket engines. The Missile Defense Agency will use this data to validate and update the models and simulations that are fundamental to missile defense technologies. A secondary objective of the experiment is to collect types of infrared and visible light data for assessing early missile launch detection and tracking capability.

The NFIRE satellite is carrying two payloads into low earth orbit aboard an Air Force four-stage Minotaur I space launch vehicle, contracted through Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Launch Systems Group. The primary payload is the track sensor payload (TSP), which will be used to collect the images of the boosting rocket. The TSP was developed by Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego, Calif., under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. The secondary payload is a laser communications terminal (LCT), which will be used to evaluate the utility of laser communications for missile defense applications. The LCT was developed by Tesat-Spacecom and is provided by the German government as part of a cooperative agreement between the US and Germany.

General Dynamics is the system integrator for the NFIRE mission, responsible for the design and manufacture of the spacecraft, payload integration, full satellite system testing, configuration of the mission operation centers and one year of on-orbit operations support.

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The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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