By Senior Airman Naomi Griego
50th Space Wing Public Affairs Office
For nearly three decades, an antenna known as PIKE has quietly sat inside a giant eggshell or golf ball, depending on your imagination, in the restricted area of Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, and as of Tuesday it has found a new place to call home. You know, as in, “E.T. phone home.”
During a ceremony last year, the Colorado Tracking Station, also known as PIKE, was decommissioned after 24 years of service. During that time it ran 174,900 satellite supports and had visability of 97 of the 154 satellites supported by the Air Force.
When the antenna was decommissioned last September, it remained inside its protective shell. Fortunately for PIKE, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, corporate research lab for the Navy and Marine Corps which conducts a broad program of scientific research, technology and advanced development, thought it was worth saving. They reached out to Brad Prescott, National Reconnaissance Office, to make it happen and Alex Snatchko, 50th Network Operations Group, served as a coordinator for the deconstruction of the antenna.
“We got a call from the NRL asking if they could have the antenna and I basically got them in touch with the right people,” said Prescott.
The process took months to plan but the actual removal took only days.
“Colorado Tracking Station was the last of the Air Force Satellite Control Network antennas to be put in place,” said Snatchko. “Up until the last six months we were using it for testing.”
The NRL picks up older antennas, refurbishes them and optimizes the dish to bring the antenna back to life. They basically give old antennas a new shot at life.
“We don’t have to dispose of it now,” said Snatchko. “If the antenna wasn’t repurposed it would’ve been taken to the boneyard.”
According to Snatchko, they’ll (NRL) optimize it and be able to put it back together exactly the way it was, not an easy task but these guys are pros.
“It’s good to know it’ll be used for a good purpose,” said Snatchko.
The egg-like structure will remain intact so most members won’t even know anything changed.
“The radome will stay and the satellite will leave,” said Prescott. “It’ll have a new home.”