By Scott Prater
With its ceremonial acceptance of satellite control authority of the Operationally Responsive Space-1 satellite Sept. 23, the 50th Space Wing upped its total number of operated vehicles to 64. This SCA, however, represented a first for the wing and could signal a fundamental shift in the way satellite systems are developed.
Col. John Shaw, 50th Operations Group commander, called the transfer of SCA from the Space and Missile Systems Center to the 14th Air Force and subsequently to the 50 SW, a unique opportunity to make history.
“Team 8-ball is blazing a new trail with ORS-1 and we can’t wait to see what the system will do,” Shaw said. “We wish the team the best of success in providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities for the warfighter.”
Col. James Ross, 50 SW commander, officially delegated SCA of ORS-1 to the 1st Space Operations Squadron and its Commander Lt. Col. Mike Manor Sept. 16, following a 45-day checkout by SMC personnel.
“We work hand-in-hand with our reserve squadron, the 7th Space Operations Squadron, so that’s where the term Team 8-ball comes from,” Manor said. “We are truly the sum of 1 and 7. The successful checkout of the satellite and the transfer of control authority represents a total-team effort between us here at the 50 SW, the folks at the Space Development and Test Directorate down in Kirtland, N.M. and our ATK and Goodrich contractors.
Testing and checkouts are performed on every satellite to be operated by the 50 SW. What’s different about ORS-1 is the manner and efficiency in which the satellite system was developed, from concept to launch and operation.
“Air Force Space Command has been working hard to create a methodology to field space systems faster and less expensively in response to real-time warfighter needs,” Manor said. “This particular vehicle, ORS-1, demonstrates the benefit of this methodology.”
Manor explained that most satellite systems follow a nearly decade-long concept-to-operation cycle, but that ORS-1 was envisioned and launched in a span of just more than 30 months.
“This satellite system does not represent a huge leap in technology,” he said. “It’s more of a conceptual leap, where we’re leveraging existing technology from a variety of different programs, combining that technology into a single satellite and then placing it on orbit to meet a need.”
The ORS-1 project stemmed from an urgent request by U.S. Central Command for additional space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. Including on-board optics and infrared sensors — ORS-1 fills that need.
“ORS-1 uses an existing ISR platform, the Senior Year Electro-Optical Reconnaissance System, which has been used with the U-2 high-altitude aircraft, as its payload,” Manor said. “Team 8-ball operates both the bus and the payload, which is unique for Air Force Space Command because these types of vehicles are normally operated by the National Reconnaissance Office.”
Team 8-ball crews are excited about operating a new system and Manor says ORS-1’s customers at USCENTCOM have been extremely impressed with the pictures the satellite has produced thus far.
“Airmen in 1 and 7 SOPS understand their work with ORS-1 has a direct impact to the warfighters down range,” Manor said. “As for our customers at USCENTCOM, they’ve stated that this satellite increases their space-based ISR data significantly.”
Though plans for a second ORS vehicle are unknown, Manor said the ORS concept becomes a nice option during our current fiscally restrained environment.
With the addition of ORS-1, Team 8-ball now operates four different satellite systems including: Space Based Space Surveillance, Advanced Technology Risk Reduction and Tactical Satellite 3.