By Jennifer Thibault
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
For the third year in a row, the C4ISR Journal has brought together a panel of judges to determine the projects that have made the biggest impact in both the industry and intelligence communities.
The panel reviews the “Big 25” and determines the “Top 5” which are announced during their annual conference in Washington D.C.
The top sensor honor went to TacSat-3, currently operated by the 1st Space Operations Squadron.
Capt. Rickie Banister and Tech. Sgt. Herbert Mosier, both from 1 SOPS, joined members from the Air Force Research Laboratory and Raytheon to receive the award Oct. 12.
“It was a surreal feeling,” said Captain Banister. “I was very proud of the award and wished more of my co-workers could have attended. We not only accepted the award for our squadron but for every user of TacSat-3.”
TacSat -3 was originally launched as an experimental satellite in May 2009; however it became an operational asset in June of this year.
“While TacSat-3 was utilized as an R&D asset, the focus was on experimentation. Now that 1 SOPS has satellite control authority, the focus is on serving the warfighter,” said Sergeant Mosier. “Demand for [the system’s] products increases as more intelligence exploiters become aware of the satellite’s capabilities. TacSat-3 is providing critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to safeguard our Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force personnel down range.”
The satellite is basically a space borne camera that can identify evidence of roadside bombs by analyzing spectral signatures of ground features or objects, including freshly-dug dirt or specific kinds of metals.
To the warfighters, “the TS-3 architecture supports battlespace awareness to Joint Force theater and tactical commanders; provides indications and warning of potential threats; and cueing of other ISR sensors for expanded collection and surveillance operations,” said 1 SOPS Commander Lt. Col. Lorenzo Bradley.
Aside from this honor, the satellite is also the first real-world application of an operationally responsive space instrument.
“Transitioning TacSat-3 to operations has served as a pathfinder for a more responsive approach to defining, developing, fielding, operating and sustaining space capabilities,” said the colonel. “We in 1 SOPS look forward to being a part of this effort that is focused on exploiting and infusing technological or operational innovations to improve the ability to respond to joint force commander needs.”
Because TacSat-3 was an experimental system, it is not known just how long the satellite will be functional.
“As long as TacSat-3 is fully functional, it will have a bright future in 1 SOPS,” said Captain Banister. “TacSat-3 has not only helped the warfighter, it has given our 1 SOPS operators much needed experience and has prepared us for Operational Responsive Space 1 operations.”
The other four awards presented during the conference included best innovation, best network system, best organization and best platform.