By Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
The room was full of excitement as members of the 3rd Space Operations Squadron and the 50th Space Wing sat in the Building 300 auditorium anticipating the launch of the Wideband Global Satcom-7 satellite, Thursday, July 23, 2015.
“Three… two… one…” the room grew quiet as Delta Mission Control completed the countdown and then erupted into cheers as the engines roared and the launch vehicle left the Earth — “We have lift off.”
“Today is a great day for 3 SOPS, with today’s WGS-7 launch,” said Lt. Col. Chris Todd, 3 SOPS commander. “We’ve added to the wideband satellite communications capability in support of more than 241,000 global users across all nine combatant commands.”
The WGS-7 launch marks the seventh of 10 scheduled launches which will comprise the WGS constellation and phase out the Defense Satellite Communications System.
“The launch is just the first part of a 14 year design-life where we can provide communications,” said 1st Lt. Benjamin Mealey, 3 SOPS mission commander. “WGS has 24/7 telemetry capability, meaning we get a stream from the Army that we are actually able to see at all times every day, all day.”
This capability allows 3 SOPS and the 53rd Signals Battalion to have a global impact by expanding their ability to provide non line-of-site communications to military and civilian users world-wide.
“One WGS is equivalent to 10 DSCS, so effectively today we have 70 DSCS satellites on orbit in addition to the six that are currently on orbit,” said Todd.
In order to highlight this mission with members assigned outside of 3 SOPS and share this event with family members, 3 SOPS held a launch party and sent out an invitation base-wide. This was the first opportunity many had to witness a satellite launch.
“This is a big deal,” said Col. DeAnna M. Burt, 50 SW commander. “This is the first WGS launch I’ve sat and watched. I previously left [Schriever Air Force Base] right as they were starting to launch the first one.”
For others, this launch marked the realization of a dream.
“I’ve always dreamed of doing something with space because space has always interested me,” said Airman 1st Class Matthew Ulloa, a new satellite operator assigned to 3 SOPS. “I’m actually very proud and very happy to be working on the satellite. I can’t wait until it is put into effect.”
The launch and early orbit process for WGS-7 will take approximately three months, after which 3 SOPS will gain command and control authority for the satellite.
“The mission of the 50 SW is to command satellites to deliver decisive global effects,” said Todd. “The certified operators in this room are not the only ones who contribute to this mission. We have space operators, cyber professionals, all kinds of engineers, orbital analysts, instructors, evaluators, communicators, defenders, commanders, superintendents, first sergeants… we have spouses and we have all the children in this room that love us and support us and are able to make this mission possible. Without you, this would not be possible. I want you all to understand that this launch is bigger than just 3 SOPS.”