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1 SOPS witnesses GSSAP 3, 4 launch

A Delta IV rocket carrying AFSPC-6 mission lifts off from Space Launch Complex-37 at 12:52 a.m. EDT, Aug. 19.(Photo by United Launch Alliance)

A Delta IV rocket carrying AFSPC-6 mission lifts off from Space Launch Complex-37 at 12:52 a.m. EDT, Aug. 19.(Photo by United Launch Alliance)

From left, 1st Space Operations Squadron members Staff Sgt. Thomas England, Tech. Sgt. Charles Shell, 1st Lt. Brandon Sexton and Lt. Col. Casey Beard visit Space Launch Complex-37 to witness the historic launch of Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program satellites 3 and 4 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. The squadron’s observance of the launch was vital to their personal education and development for future mission operations. (Courtesy photo)

From left, 1st Space Operations Squadron members Staff Sgt. Thomas England, Tech. Sgt. Charles Shell, 1st Lt. Brandon Sexton and Lt. Col. Casey Beard visit Space Launch Complex-37 to witness the historic launch of Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program satellites 3 and 4 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. The squadron’s observance of the launch was vital to their personal education and development for future mission operations. (Courtesy photo)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Florida --

Airmen with the 1st Space Operations Squadron witnessed the historic launch of Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program satellites 3 and 4 at 12:47 a.m., Friday, Aug. 19, from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The successful early-morning launch delivered the two satellites into geosynchronous orbit, a vital operation for 1 SOPS’s space based space situational awareness mission.

“This is an exciting day for 1 SOPS, the 50th Space Wing and Air Force Space Command. With the addition of GSSAP 3 and 4, we are significantly increasing our footprint across the GEO belt,” said Lt. Col. Casey Beard, 1 SOPS commander. “These satellites will greatly enhance our ability to provide timely and accurate situational awareness, detect threats and defend our critical space assets.”

The squadron’s observance of the launch was vital to their personal education and development for future mission operations.

“We got to see how launch operations (were executed) and developed tactics, techniques and procedures (to support) our ability to maintain custody during launches,” explained Tech. Sgt. Charles Shell, 1 SOPS Weapons and Tactics NCO in charge. “The launch supports U.S. Strategic Command’s Space Enhanced Awareness operations and will enhance their knowledge of what’s in the geosynchronous orbit.”

Custody during launches is the ability to know where an object is in space, and predict or track where it’s going through the terminal phase of space launch. This accurate tracking and characterization is a crucial 1 SOPS focus that supports future space flight safety - including satellite collision avoidance.

The squadron currently oversees command and control for three different weapons systems--GSSAP, Advanced Technology Risk Reduction and Space Based Space Surveillance. They are also slated to operate the Operationally Responsive Space-5 satellite.

Shell explained the 1 SOPS mission crews and mission planning cell have been extremely busy in support of the satellites’ journey to launch. But it’s a labor of love for the future.

“I’m excited and proud that we’ve been given the opportunity to pave the way of the future of space operations. We’re establishing norms for space operations world-wide and we’re codifying processes to normalize operations. We’re proving to our leaders and higher headquarters that we can do these operations safely,” said Shell.

Looking ahead, Beard concurs. His team is ready.

“The men and women of 1 SOPS are prepared to integrate these satellites into a holistic space-based space surveillance architecture as we continue to pioneer new ways of warfare," Beard concluded.

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