by Scott Prater
10/16/2014 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- 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.
"With leadership's decision to make 1 SOPS a space-based SSA squadron,
we begin the work of truly operationalizing SSA to where the Joint
Functional Component Command space commander will receive truly
actionable information," said Lt. Col. Toby Doran, 1 SOPS commander.
"Moreover, by gaining synergy among SBSS, ATRR and GSSAP, we can say
that space superiority starts in 1 SOPS."
SBSS plays a large and significant role in the space situational awareness realm.
Built by Ball Aerospace Technologies Corporation and the Boeing company,
SBSS uses a two-axis, gimbaled optical telescope to provide coverage of
satellites and other objects in the geostationary belt.
It is one of the few satellites on orbit that look out toward the
heavens instead of toward Earth. SBSS is a low-Earth orbit sensor that
provides all-weather, 24-hour space situational awareness data to assist
commanders throughout the military in detecting, identifying and
tracking potential hazards in space. In essence, SBSS helps provide a
better understanding of the space environment.
"The vehicle performs more GEO observations than any other sensor," said
Capt. Jared Grady, 1 SOPS lead SSA space vehicle engineer. "It also
performs a significant number of deep space observations beyond the GEO
Grady explained that 1 SOPS analysts and engineers have continued to
innovate during SBSS's lifespan, which has extended the satellite's
capability beyond its original design life.
This year proved to be an important one for both the satellite and the
squadron as 1 SOPS members rewrote the vehicle's tactics manual. This
not only helps operators understand the updated vehicle, but informs the
SSA community about how SBSS contributes to space situational
"When we consider a one-of-a-kind system like SBSS, we have no choice
but to be innovative," Doran said. "There is no opportunity for material
solutions, so we turn to our tacticians to get the most out of the
system. They have done it and our new tactics manual documents that
As the squadron opens year five of SBSS operations, the lessons learned
and the experience gleaned from the system's performance will be
invaluable as it embarks on year one of operating GSSAP.
"As we transition our mission sets, we're commemorating our success of
another year on orbit [for SBSS]," said Capt. Brett Kasischke, 1 SOPS
chief of operations training. "At the same time, what's new and
different is we're doing this with a vision of ourselves as an SSA