18th Space Control Squadron, Det. 1
Published January 25, 2017
The 18th Space Control Squadron, Detachment One (18 SPCS, Det 1) at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren, VA is located 53 miles south of Washington D.C. The detachment is a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.
Maintain continuous and transparent space situational awareness to assure global freedom of action in space
18 SPCS, Det 1 is responsible for functioning as Distributive Space Command and Control-Dahlgren (DSC2-D) and serves as the alternate Space Situational Awareness command and control node for the 18 SPCS which is located at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. DSC2-D provides tasking to the space surveillance network, a worldwide network of space surveillance sensors (radar and optical telescopes, both military and civilian) on high-priority satellites, processes space events (launches, reentries, de-orbits, breakups, maneuvers, etc.) and works directly with NASA to ensure the safety of the International Space Station crews.
18 SPCS, Det 1 also works Laser Clearinghouse requests to ensure Laser test fires do not interfere with on orbit assets. Collocated and working hand-in-hand with Naval Network Warfare Command Space Operations, DSC2-D enhances the Department of the Navy Satellite Vulnerability Program by providing near real-time notification to the Naval Fleet of potential hostile Space-Based Reconnaissance Systems and provides space situational awareness products and services in support of United States Strategic Command.
EQUIPMENT AND FACILITIES
8 military, 38 civil service people and 8 contractors are assigned to 18 SPCS, Det 1. The personnel encompass orbital analyst crews, automated data processing crews, computer support, human resources, and a security manager.
The Mission Processing System (MPS) is the workhorse of DSC2-D. The space operators task the space surveillance network to observe and track satellites and match those sensor observations to more than 23,000 man-made Earth orbiting objects and update the position of each one. These updates form the Space Catalog in the Mission Processing System, a comprehensive listing of orbital parameters for objects in space. This data is used to provide the space surveillance network with up-to-date information for more efficient satellite tracking.
Dahlgren has a rich history in space operations. After the Sputnik launch in 1957, the U.S. realized that a means to track satellites was needed. The DoD turned to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop a prototype solution which subsequently was operationalized and labeled the AN/FPS-133 Space Fence and was aligned under the Navy Space Surveillance System at Dahlgren in 1961. In 1971, the Alternate Space Control Center was activated at Eglin Air force base and their back-up computation center was at Dahlgren. In 1987, the Alternate Space Control Center mission transferred to Dahlgren and operations were integrated with Navy Space Surveillance System.
In 2004, the mission transferred from the Navy to the Air Force. Both the Space Fence and the Alternate Space Control Center missions were transferred to the 20th Space Control Squadron, Detachment One (20 SPCS, Det 1) under the 21st Space Wing. In 2010, the operational missions transferred from the 20 SPCS, Det 1 to the newly activated 614th Air Operations Center, Detachment One (614 AOC, Det 1). In February 2013, the Space Fence celebrated 52 years of continuous operations; however, it was soon deactivated as well as its detachment in October 2013. Manpower and resources were realigned under the 614 AOC, Det 1. On 22 July 2016, the 614 AOC, Det 1 was deactivated and the 18 SPCS, Det 1 was activated.