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2013 in Review: Year brings more vehicles, capability to space-effects mission

Col. Bill Liquori, 50th Space Wing commander, (far right) accepts satellite control authority of the Wideband Global SATCOM-6 satellite from the 14th Air Force and delegates SCA to Lt. Col. Chadwick Igl, 3rd Space Operations Squadron commander, (center) here Dec. 17.

Col. Bill Liquori, 50th Space Wing commander, (far right) accepts satellite control authority of the Wideband Global SATCOM-6 satellite from the 14th Air Force and delegates SCA to Lt. Col. Chadwick Igl, 3rd Space Operations Squadron commander, (center) here Dec. 17.

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, 14th Air Force
commander, Col. James Ross, 50th Space Wing commander, Brig. Gen Cary Chun
(ret.), and several members of the 50th Space Wing participate in a ribbon
cutting ceremony for the newly opened Integrated Operations Environment here
Feb. 22, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, 14th Air Force commander, Col. James Ross, 50th Space Wing commander, Brig. Gen Cary Chun (ret.), and several members of the 50th Space Wing participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly opened Integrated Operations Environment here Feb. 22, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 50th Space Wing's 2013 proved to be a historic year.

After more than a decade of planning, organizing and building, the wing's Integrated Operations Environment opened for operations in mid January.

The IOE is a 50 SW initiative to integrate the operations of Department of Defense military satellite communications systems and architectures into a single operations floor.

Combined operations began Jan. 28 and Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, 14th Air Force commander, Col. James Ross, former 50 SW commander, and Brig. Gen. (ret.) Cary Chun also a former 50 SW commander, officially opened the IOE with a ribbon cutting ceremony Feb. 22, 2013.

While the wing improved its operational facilities in 2013, it also saw its mission grow in both scope and advanced technology.

The 2nd Space Operations Squadron accepted satellite control authority of its fourth GPS Block IIF satellite June 7, 2013. The Air Force's newest GPS satellite was positioned in its final orbital location May 29, 2013, and replaced SVN-33, an older Block IIA space vehicle that served the GPS mission for more than 17 years.

The Block IIF series is the fifth generation of GPS spacecraft and provides improved timing technology, a more jam-resistant military signal and higher powered civilian signal compared to previous models. SVN-66 was designed to operate on orbit for 12 years and includes a reprogrammable processor capable of receiving software uploads.

The opening of the IOE was just the start of a big year for 3 SOPS. The squadron added a pair of satellites to its constellation as well.

Wideband Global SATCOM-5 launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., May 28, 2013. It is the fifth vehicle in the WGS constellation and the second spacecraft in the program's Block II series and features a new radio frequency bypass that supports the transmission of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance imagery at data rates three times greater than Block I vehicles. It also includes new, user-preferred narrow-gauge antennas, a channelizer cable swap, which better utilizes bandwidth routing, and more efficient solar arrays.

Col. Bill Rittershaus, 50 SW vice commander, accepted SCA from the 14th Air Force and delegated it to Igl and 3 SOPS in a ceremony here Oct. 8, 2013.

A mere two months later, in the first SCA transfer to occur in the wing's new IOE, Col. Bill Liquori, 50 SW commander, delegated SCA of WGS-6 to 3 SOPS. The commencement of command and control operations for WGS-6 signaled the beginning of a new era for international cooperation in space.

Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Aug. 7, 2013, WGS-6 is not only the third and final spacecraft in the program's Block II series, it is the first WGS satellite purchased by the Australian government.

Australia bought into the WGS program to the tune of $700 million. Its government not only fully funded WGS-6, but also constructed two remote monitoring and control stations to assist in payload management and tracking of WGS vehicles. They are also working side-by-side at select Wideband Satellite Operations Centers operated by the Army's 53rd Signal Battalion.

While 3 SOPS added the latest technology to its mission set, the 4 SOPS continued to upgrade its legacy vehicles. New software added to Milstar satellites during August delivered additional functionality by using existing passive sensors on the system as a Wide Angle Sun Sensor, which provides extra protection to the satellite system in the event of gyro failure. The new capability, also provided an extra layer of redundancy for end of life and safe state operations for Milstar vehicles.

Meanwhile, the 1st Space Operations Squadron earned a significant new designation on its Space Based Space Surveillance Block 10 satellite.

The vehicle earned full operational capability in July following a declaration from Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein, Air Force Space Command, Air, Space and Cyberspace Operations director. Though 1 SOPS earned initial operational capability of SBSS in August 2012, it needed to show continued effectiveness to earn the new designation.

Mission growth also occurred in the wing's Network Operations Group this past year.

In November, the 50th Space Communications Squadron began testing the Global Broadcast Service Defense Enterprise Computing Center architecture in preparation for accepting GBS operations here in the near future.

Global Broadcast Service is a communication broadcast service developed to meet the ever-growing warfighter demand for large-volume data throughput capabilities. The service disseminates large data and video products as well as source-encrypted video streams through certain satellite constellations.

Mission growth will continue into the new year. Ultimately, the Air Force plans to launch 12 GPS Block IIF satellites and has three launches in the planning stage for 2014. The WGS constellation is also slated to include up to 10 satellites, with future launch dates to be determined.

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