50th Space Wing Public Affairs
2014 was a busy year for the men and women of the 50th Space Wing.
We’ll start with the squadrons that operate the nation’s most recognizable space system: the 2nd and 19th Space Operations Squadrons. These squadrons not only placed four GPS vehicles on orbit, they also disposed of a legacy GPS vehicle — all within a 10-month span.
Tensions were high in October during the lift-off and early-orbit of SVN-69, a GPS Block IIF vehicle, when a CBS news crew captured film footage of the event on the operations floor here.
While the squadrons spent the year modernizing the GPS constellation, they also began delivering a pair of new signals to civilians worldwide.
When payload operators here flipped the “on” switch, capable GPS satellites began broadcasting the new signals, known as L2C and L5. These signals represent the first of several new civil capabilities being added to GPS as part of the GPS modernization program announced in 1999. The L2C signal is designed to meet commercial needs, while L5 meets safety-of-life transportation requirements.
In October, members of the 1st Space Operations Squadron gathered to celebrate the Space Based Space Surveillance satellite’s fourth anniversary on orbit. The event not only provided an opportunity for squadron members and leaders to celebrate mission success, it also helped fortify a new identity for 1 SOPS, which has transitioned into a space based space situational awareness squadron in the past 12 months.
While the squadron has commanded and controlled SBSS since it reached orbit in September 2010, it also gained a new SSA system, the Geosynchronus Space Situational Awareness Program, this past summer.
In June, Air Force Space Command leadership directed 1 SOPS to add command and control of GSSAP to its portfolio of SSA systems, which includes SBSS and the Advanced Technology Risk Reduction Satellite.
Not to be outdone, the 3rd Space Operations Squadron started its year by repositioning its eighth satellite during a nine-month effort to optimize the military wideband communications constellation.
It was a daunting task. Some of the satellite moves involved large-scale relocations equal to 177,000 miles of movement in geostationary orbit. 3 SOPS had to create an optimization plan and collision avoidance plan for each vehicle, then, determine where they could safely operate at the proposed location and how to safely move there. They also had to coordinate with Army Strategic Command’s Wideband Consolidated Satellite Support Element to ensure communication users continued to have access to critical communication links.
While the wing welcomed new missions and technology, it also waved fond farewell to a few legacy systems. Signaling the end of operations for one of the Air Force Satellite Control Network’s most valued assets of the past two decades, the 22nd Space Operations Squadron officially decommissioned the Colorado Tracking Station here during a ceremony in September.
Commonly referred to as PIKE, the station has long been associated with Schriever Air Force Base. It provided an iconic image for the base in a multitude of publications and media, which showed the tracking station’s antenna back dropped by a majestic Pike’s Peak.