Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

Wing closing one detachment

The Morón Optical Space Surveillance System, known as Detachment 4, 21st Operations Group, in Morón, Spain, closed March 31. Data from the telescope, which had become increasingly more costly to operate, was replaced by new space surveillance systems that have come online in recent years.

By Steve Brady

21st Space Wing Public Affairs Office

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The 21st Space Wing closed its Morón Optical Space Surveillance System, known as Detachment 4, 21st Operations Group, in Morón, Spain, March 31.

Situated south of Seville and north of Naval Station Rota in the province of Andalucía, MOSS was a large telescope used to detect, track and identify manmade deep-space objects in support of the U.S. Strategic Command space control mission. The unit reported new foreign and domestic launches to the Joint Space Operations Center and to the National Air and Space Intelligence Center.

MOSS began operating in 1998 to fill a coverage gap over the Mediterranean Sea.

“MOSS was intended to be a short-term solution, but it has been in operation for 14 years and was becoming increasingly difficult to sustain,” said Lt. Col. Paul Tombarge, 21st Operations Group commander. “With new space surveillance systems online to address the coverage area and the increasing cost and difficulty to sustain MOSS, the decision was made to divest the system and reallocate the associated manpower and funding where it could be better used.”

The detachment held a small guidon casing ceremony March 20, signifying the historical closure of Detachment 4.

“We count ourselves lucky to be a part of this bittersweet undertaking,” said Maj. Jacob Pairsh, Detachment 4 commander. “I use the word bittersweet because we personally recognize the hard work, countless hours, blood, sweat and tears that have been poured into this unit and weapon system. We know we are participating in the making of history, and that it is a truly rare opportunity to walk away from an assignment and be able to accurately say mission complete.”

The 11 space operations and maintenance Airmen assigned to Detachment 4 will be reassigned to other Air Force units.

The 21st Operations Group still maintains three ground-based optical surveillance sensors located in Socorro, N.M., Diego Garcia in the British Indian Ocean Territories, and Maui, Hawaii, which continue to provide foundational space surveillance data in support of our nation’s defense.

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