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Highly Anticipated Tests: The Air Force has certified that the first on-orbit space based infrared system sensor payload is ready to begin a dedicated operational utility evaluation, a major step en route to it commencing formal operations later this year, lead contractor Lockheed Martin announced Aug. 28. The payload, dubbed HEO-1 because it resides on a classified intelligence satellite in highly elliptical orbit, has been exceeding expectations in tests thus far, Air Force and company officials have said. As part of the evaluation, HEO-1 will enter trial-period operations in which, for the first time, live data from the sensor will be injected into the operational networks that provide critical warning and intelligence data to warfighters. HEO-2, the second on-orbit SBIRS payload, is expected to begin operations in early 2009.