By Scott Prater
As a cadre of 3rd Space Operations Squadron members looked on, 3 SOPS Commander, Lt. Col. Chris Todd, shut down the final remaining components of a Defense Satellite Communications System satellite here July 30.
With those final commands, the vehicle known as DSCS B12 was officially deactivated after serving for more than 22 years.
“As with many Department of Defense satellites, DSCS B12 served the joint warfighter well beyond its 10-year projected lifespan,” Todd said. “In its 8,064 days in service, this satellite supported multiple missions on multiple continents during multiple wartime and peacetime contingencies.”
Launched in July 1992, DSCS B12 reached geosynchronous orbit more than 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface on schedule.
The satellite provided national command authorities, combatant commanders, joint and allied forces, and other users around the world with reliable wideband satellite communications. It supported communications users during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and later in life it supported projects led by the National Science Foundation, thanks to its high orbital inclination.
First Lt. Alexander Fiore, 3 SOPS lead DSCS engineer, and his 3 SOPS teammates maneuvered B12 into super synchronous orbit another 417 miles out this past June. Second Lt. Daniel Skaggs, 3 SOPS DSCS engineer, gained his first significant experience on that super synch maneuver and counted on that experience July 30.
“These past few months have been an exciting time for me,” said Skaggs. “I was certified as a DSCS engineer, and in addition, had the opportunity to aid my fellow DSCS engineers in the B12 super synchronization. The final support on B12 could not have gone any smoother. Being on console was a unique experience, which is invaluable since you only get this opportunity maybe once or twice in a career.”
Fiore said countless numbers of 3 SOPS team members have gained invaluable experience thanks to B12. It is the oldest DSCS satellite on orbit and has provided communications from the West Pacific region for nearly 20 years. While Air Force operations squadrons have controlled the space vehicle, its communications payload has been managed and operated by the U.S. Army’s 53rd Signal Battalion.
“After 22 years, we bid farewell to this wideband communications workhorse,” Todd said. “But, the future is not bleak with regards to satellite communications capacity. In July 2015, we are planning to add to the wideband constellation with the seventh launch of a Wideband Global SATCOM satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. With that launch, we will significantly increase our bandwidth capacity, adding to our ability to communicate in a contested and congested space environment.”