By Master Sgt. Kevin Williams
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The 1st Space Operations Squadron at Schriever AFB, Colo. will assume command and control of the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) this summer. The satellites are a space-based capability that will operate in the near-geosynchronous orbit regime supporting U.S. Strategic Command space surveillance operations as a dedicated Space Surveillance Network sensor.
General William L. Shelton, Commander of Air Force Space Command, directed 1 SOPS to add command and control of GSSAP to the portfolio of Space Situational Awareness systems they control, including the Space Based Space Surveillance satellite and the Advanced Technology Risk Reduction (ATRR) satellite.
The first two GSSAP satellites are scheduled to launch July 23, 2014 aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV booster from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. 1 SOPS will assume operation of GSSAP following launch and initial check-out. The satellites will communicate information through world-wide Air Force Satellite Control Network ground stations to 1 SOPS where satellite operators will oversee day-to-day operation of the satellites.
“This marks a great milestone for 1 SOPS and AFSPC,” said General Shelton. “With the alignment of the GSSAP mission to 1 SOPS, we will achieve new synergies within the Space Situational Awareness mission area. Operating the new GSSAP mission alongside our other space-based SSA systems will allow personnel to collaborate across multiple, highly capable SSA systems within the same squadron.”
Brig. Gen. David Buck, AFSPC Director of Air, Space and Cyberspace Operations, noted GSSAP adds a different SSA mission than those currently operated by 1 SOPS.
“GSSAP will not replace the capabilities that 1 SOPS currently operates,” said General Buck. “SBSS and ATRR operate in low-earth orbits and have different capabilities. GSSAP will be placed in a near-geosynchronous orbit at approximately 22,300 miles above the earth. It will have a very distinct vantage point in relation to the objects it will be observing in geosynchronous orbit. With GSSAP, we will actually be able to characterize an object to a very discriminate level, not just track it.”
Other SSA capabilities operated by for 1 SOPS include ATRR, which is in a low earth orbit and provides geosynchronous belt surveillance by producing metric observations. SBSS is also in a low earth orbit and provides metric observations as well as Space Object Identification data on satellites operating in geosynchronous orbit.
GSSAP satellites are designed to support Joint Functional Component Command for Space tasking to collect space situational awareness data which will allow for more accurate tracking and characterization of man-made orbiting objects. GSSAP will operate in a near-geosynchronous orbit where it will have a clear, unobstructed and distinct vantage point for viewing resident space objects in the geosynchronous orbit regime without the disruption of weather or atmosphere that can limit ground-based systems. Data from GSSAP will uniquely contribute to timely and accurate orbital predictions, enhance our knowledge of the geosynchronous orbit environment, and further enable space flight safety to include satellite collision avoidance.