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Schriever Sentinel

23 SOPS cloaks newest tracking antenna

The 23rd Space Operations Squadron recently completed installation of an air-supported Kevlar radome around its newest tracking antenna at New Boston Air Force Station, N.H. The radome is designed to protect the antenna from elements and prolong its operational life. (Courtesy photo)

By Scott Prater

Schriever Sentinel

The 23rd Space Operations Squadron took another step toward upgrading a critical antenna at New Boston Air Force Station, N.H., recently, when crews installed an air-supported Kevlar radome around its newest Air Force Satellite Control Network antenna.

“The radome is designed to protect the $13 million antenna from the elements and allow for a longer lifespan,” said Brian Pal, Honeywell on-site engineer. “It’s a key piece in the process of making this asset operational.”

The new structure is replacing a nearly 40-year old antenna at the site and represents a substantial improvement in technology and performance.

“This brand new antenna was installed this past June; it’s a three-axis antenna that when operational, will perform tracking, telemetry and commanding operations on a variety of satellites,” said Lt. Col. Cary Belmear, 23 SOPS director of operations. “The most important difference here is that the new antenna maintains uninterrupted contact while it tracks satellites directly overhead. This is especially important for us here at New Boston in support of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program mission.”

Project leaders decided to use an inflated dome to protect the antenna due to its reduced signal loss compared to a framed structure.

The radome installation was one of the project’s final elements and now allows engineers to begin extensive system integration and operational testing on the apparatus. Tentative plans call for turnover to the Air Force in 2014. Until then, 23 SOPS will continue to use its legacy BOSS-B antenna for taskings from the Air Force Satellite Control Network and other organizations.

This step marks another milestone in the site’s transformation through the years. Operations began at the station in 1960, when Airmen used van-mounted equipment to make contact with satellites. By 1964, New Boston had permanent antennas in place and began dual tracking, telemetry and commanding capabilities. Air Force Space Command assumed control of 23 SOPS in 1987 and the squadron replaced its on-site BOSS-A antenna during 2007.

The recent upgrade signals the Air Force’s increasing reliance on the capabilities generated there.

“23 SOPS is excited to be a part of this culmination of efforts by the Space and Missile Systems Center, Honeywell and Team BOSS,” said Lt. Col. David Hanson, 23 SOPS commander. “We look forward to commencing operations of this newest generation AFSCN antenna in 2014. Special thanks to all involved for their dedication and teamwork.”

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