By Staff Sgt. Erica Picariello
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
More than two years ago, a research satellite was launched into orbit. The satellite’s intended lifespan was less than a year and the mission was temporary.
Today, this satellite, Tactical Satellite-3, is still running full throttle. The satellite has proven to be an invaluable asset to the space community, allowing its temporary mission to turn operational and be picked-up by Schriever’s 1st Space Operations Squadron June 17, 2010.
“After almost two years without an operational mission, taking Satellite Control Authority of TacSat-3 last June was instrumental in returning an operational mind-set to 1 SOPS personnel,” said Lt. Col. Lorenzo Bradley, 1 SOPS Squadron commander.
The active duty 1 SOPS teamed up with its reservist sister squadron, 7 SOPS, to keep TacSat-3 flying and improve processes for the future.
“Flexibility and innovation have been vital contributors to ensuring 1 SOPS and 7 SOPS operational readiness for TacSat-3,” said Colonel Bradley. “The new mindset that is required for the rapid acquisition and employment of satellite systems has forced the units to move beyond how ‘it used to be done’ and focus on how ‘it can be done.’ Best practices have been gathered from 1 SOPS personnel’s previous experiences to develop an efficient and effective operator readiness program. The current internal program will be the baseline for the next Operationally Responsive Space mission assigned to 1 SOPS and 7 SOPS.”
The TacSat-3 was originally launched to test the capability of providing real-time imaging to combatant commanders down range.
According to the TacSat-3 fact sheet sponsored by the Kirtland AFB public website, the satellite’s primary mission is to rapidly supply target detection and identification data, as well as information related to battlefield preparation and combat damage assessment.
“TacSat-3’s unique hyperspectral imaging capability provides valuable information to combatant commanders,” said Lt. Col. Robb Owens, 1 SOPS director of operations. “The analysis of spectral signatures of ground features or objects allows intelligence exploiters to identify a wide range of man-made materials and can often distinguish between man-made and natural materials. Another aspect of its mission is change detection and developing disturbed earth maps. This function has been especially useful in identifying areas of freshly moved dirt and specific kinds of metals to assist in defeating improvised explosive devices.”
Not only has this satellite helped the United States and its allies in current operations, it has proven to be a dynamic tool for solving national crises.
“To date, TacSat-3 has delivered more than 2,300 images to the intelligence community, providing timely intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance data of denied areas across various theaters of operation,” said Colonel Owens. “Additionally, TacSat-3 was used to track the Deep Horizon oil spill last summer in the Gulf of Mexico.”
However, TacSat-3’s growing mission isn’t taken for granted. The 1 SOPS community views everyday of the satellites life as a gift.
“The expected life of TacSat-3 is still an uncertainty, however, 1 SOPS is involved with the implementation of guidance, navigation and control updates that are expected to extend the use of the satellite and its support to warfighters worldwide,” said Colonel Bradley. “The bottom line is, TacSat-3 has been exceptional in supporting the battlespace awareness of the Joint Force theater and tactical commanders, indications and warning of potential threats and cueing other ISR sensors for expanded collections and surveillance operations.”