by Tech. Sgt. Stephen J. Collier
310th Space Wing Public Affairs
4/7/2014 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- In
a lead up to the recent launch of America's 19th Defense Meteorological
Satellite Program spacecraft, Air Force Reservists here took full
command and control of the nation's inventory of weather satellites
across the globe.
The 6th Space Operations Squadron, which provides support to the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's DMSP mission as a "hot
backup" location, took over the weather satellite mission at 2 p.m.
Mountain Standard Time April 3, 2014.
The squadron is expected to maintain operational control of the satellites until April 7.
The takeover control of the satellite "constellation" stems from the
need for NOAA to divert manpower and resources to ensuring the
newly-launched satellite is properly acquired. This includes ensuring
the satellite is placed in a proper low-earth orbit, running systems
checks to confirm communication with ground stations and uploading and
downloading data to the satellite, certifying the satellite can capture a
variety of weather-related imagery - all while traveling at 25 times
the speed of sound.
"This is an exciting time for the 6th SOPS," AF Reserve Lt. Col. Jody
Merritt, the squadron's commander, said. "DMSP is a heritage program
providing significant value to our nation's warfighters and overall
national security. I am thrilled to be a part of this historic moment
and am proud to work with such a fine group of officer and enlisted
To ensure a smooth transition between civilian and military operations,
the 6th SOPS transition team, led by Maj. Jeremy Edwards, worked with
multiple organizations on the handoff. These included the Air Force's
Space and Missile Systems Center, 50th Operations Group, Detachment 1
based here as well as NOAA, situated in Suitland, Md.
The "successful collaboration," according to Edwards, helped to "get (weather) data to key users around the globe.
"This launch will extend the life of this aging constellation, which
continues to provide critical terrestrial and space weather updates to
vast numbers of military and civilian users," Edwards stated. "The
successful launch and early orbit operations are a tribute to the hard
work and dedication of all the organizations involved."
One the squadron's youngest satellite operators, Senior Airman Lisa
Scherer, was also given the unique chance to send the first command
instructions to the new satellite, known as Flight 19.
"It was a great privilege given to me by my unit to be able to send the
first command to this brand new satellite in a constellation that
provides such important decision making data to warfighters and civilian
organizations all over the world," she said.
In additional to taking full command and control of the weather
satellites, the squadron also provided personnel to NOAA's Satellite
Operations Facility in support of the agency's launch and early orbit
team. The squadron contributed six personnel, to include three flight
test coordinators and three controllers.
The 6th SOPS has taken command authority of the DMSP satellite system
five times for unforeseen emergencies and seven times in support of
maintenance activities since the last launch of Flight 18 in October
2009. Overall, the squadron has conducted 8,800 support and collection
missions over 16,000 hours of data in concurrence with their AF Reserve
function of providing 10 percent of annual DMSP operations at a fraction
of the operational cost.