By Staff Sgt. Patrice Clarke
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
There is nothing like seeing a classic car on the highway; what’s better is knowing under the hood of that classic car is all the power and technology of today’s vehicles. The 21st Space Operations Squadron Detachment 3 is taking this adage to heart with the upgrade of their HULA antenna which is part of the Air Force Satellite Control Network.
Tracking stations across the AFSCN have already received or will soon be getting upgraded tracking antennas as part of the Remote Block Change program. Instead of the standard RBC replacement which includes building a new antenna ringwall, antenna, radome, communications infrastructure and all of the core electronics, the Kaena Point, Hawaii, tracking station will be taking a different, more cost effective route for one of its antenna systems, known as hybridizing.
“With a hybrid system, we are reusing the existing 60-ft antenna, ringwall and radome, but upgrading all of the antenna electronics, communications infrastructure and core electronics needed to operate the system,” said Maj. George Sanderlin, 21 SOPS, Det. 3 commander.
Creating a hybrid greatly increases the capability of the system from the older Automated Remote Tracking System, but it will lack some movement and tracking capabilities of a full RBC replacement, commented Sanderlin.
“Additionally, because you don’t have to build a new facility, antenna or radome, there is projected cost savings. Bottom line, you get almost all of the capability of an RBC, but at a significantly lower cost,” said Sanderlin.
The process is a team effort that includes the 50th Space Wing, the Space and Missile Systems Center, Honeywell Technical Services, Inc., the antenna system development contractor, and Harris Corporation, the antenna system operations and maintenance contractor.
“To start, the old system has to be decommissioned and all of the old equipment that is not being reused for the new system must be removed,” said Sanderlin. “The longest part of the process is building the hybrid system and installing all of the new electronics, communications infrastructure, etc.”
After the system is built, all of the components and the system as a whole must be validated and tested to ensure that it meets all mission requirements.
“The entire process will take about 18-24 months and the project at HULA should be complete by the end of 2015,” said Sanderlin.
The hybrid project provides an additional benefit to those at HULA. Due to the locations of the current antennas and the limitations of the older ARTS system, personnel that operate and maintain the antenna systems work in separate facilities about two miles apart.
“Once the hybrid project is complete, all AFSCN operations will take place on a single operations floor. This allows for more efficient manning of the mission and improves overall situational awareness for the commander and all mission personnel,” said Sanderlin.
According to the AFSCN fact sheet, the Kaena Point Satellite Tracking Station, where the HULA antenna resides, is one of seven AFSCN remote tracking stations performing on-orbit satellite tracking, telemetry, commanding, mission data retrieval operations, pre-launch satellite test and checkout, as well as direct operations launch support.