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2, 19 SOPS accept SCA of SVN-73 in record time

Maj. Roland Rainey, 2nd Space Operations Squadron director of operations, Lt. Col. Todd Benson, 2 SOPS commander, Col.  Anthony Mastalir, 50th Space Wing vice commander, Lt. Col. Samuel Baxter, 19th Space Operations Squadron, and Lt. Col. Karen Slocum, 19 SOPS director of operations, pose with  “the key” to GPS IIF-11 satellite vehicle number 73 after accepting satellite control authority Friday, Nov. 6, 2015, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.  SVN-73 will add to the Global Positioning System constellation which is the largest in the Air Force and Department of Defense. The GPS constellation is comprised of 40 satellites and provides precision timing to more than three billion users worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

Maj. Roland Rainey, 2nd Space Operations Squadron director of operations, Lt. Col. Todd Benson, 2 SOPS commander, Col. Anthony Mastalir, 50th Space Wing vice commander, Lt. Col. Samuel Baxter, 19th Space Operations Squadron, and Lt. Col. Karen Slocum, 19 SOPS director of operations, pose with “the key” to GPS IIF-11 satellite vehicle number 73 after accepting satellite control authority Friday, Nov. 6, 2015, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. SVN-73 will add to the Global Positioning System constellation which is the largest in the Air Force and Department of Defense. The GPS constellation is comprised of 40 satellites and provides precision timing to more than three billion users worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- What appeared to some as routine procedure in the 2nd Space Operations Squadron conference room was really a record in the making, with Team Black Jack accepting SCA just six days after the Halloween launch of satellite vehicle number-73. The 2 SOPS and 19th Space Operations Squadrons accepted satellite control authority of GPS IIF-11 SVN-73 Nov. 6 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.

Representatives from the Space and Missile Systems Center, 14th Air Force and the 50th Space Wing, including 2 and 19 SOPS commanders, connected through a teleconference to formally accept command and control of the latest GPS satellite launched into orbit Oct. 31 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

"It was a fast turn from launch to taking control of the spacecraft," said Lt. Col. Todd Benson, 2 SOPS commander. "[Accepting SCA after launch] averages between seven to 10 days, so six days is really fast speed. A lot of hard work went in to getting everything accomplished. The crew has to really be focused on what they're doing - it isn't easy."

Members of Team Black Jack prepped for the launch and subsequent SCA acceptance of SVN-73 for approximately three months. As the SCA acceptance date drew near, the 2 and 19 SOPS' preparation intensified.

"We do a mission dress rehearsal which is a three day process," said Capt. Stephanie Scott, 19 SOPS chief of launch operations. "Should something go wrong, we can see how the team reacts to it. It's vital to have a successful mission, to make sure everyone is ready to do their role."

Preparations to make the spacecraft fully operational will take approximately 30 days for the team to complete.

"We have quite a few steps left to ensure the spacecraft is ready to be used globally and to make sure the most precise signal is going out to our worldwide users," said Benson.

The unique partnership between active duty 2 SOPS and reserve 19 SOPS is a testament to Total Force Operations.

"To brag a little bit on our reserve members - when you think about a launch, they often occur once every several years. We've done five launches in the last 15 months," said Benson. "You won't find that experience anywhere else.  That is why it is so critical that our reserve partners lead this effort. We couldn't do it without them."

Although Team Black Jack's dynamic is distinct, Benson and Scott both agree the support the team receives from their mission partners, Boeing and Aerospace is key to their success.

"Boeing and Aerospace--they are the experts when it comes to this," said Scott. "A lot of them have been around since launching our earliest satellites. They bring all of their experience and pass it on to us and we obviously couldn't do it without them."

SMC also played a vital role in the launch and SCA process. SMC initially helped build, launch and owned the spacecraft, but moved into a supervisory role as Team Black Jack prepared to accept SCA of the vehicle. 

"It's par for the course that SMC provides such a great satellite for us to operate," said Benson. "Every time we've gone through this process, whether it is six days or 10 days, it's been extremely smooth largely because of them."

Team Black Jack and 50 SW leadership couldn't be happier with the success of the launch and SCA acceptance of SVN-73.

"Congratulations Team Black Jack," said Col. Anthony Mastalir, 50th Space Wing vice commander. "You all make this look easy, when really it's rocket science."

The GPS constellation is the largest in the Air Force and Department of Defense with 40 satellites and provides precision timing to more than three billion users worldwide.

The next Global Positioning System launch is scheduled for February 2016.
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