Det 4, 21st Operations Group
Published August 16, 2012
Detachment 4, 21st Operations Group, provides optical surveillance for the Space Surveillance Network. The unit is located at Morón Air Base, Spain, about 35 miles southeast of Seville, Spain. It is a geographically separated unit which reports to the 21st Operations Group, and is assigned to the 21st Space Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. The 11 space operations and maintenance personnel assigned to Detachment 4 perform the only permanent operational U.S. Air Force space mission in Europe.
There are more than 22,000 known objects in orbit around the Earth. These objects range from active payloads, such as weather or communications satellites, to launch vehicle debris and debris generated from satellite breakups.
The responsibility for keeping track of all man-made objects in orbit belongs to the Joint Space Operations Center, located at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Colo. The center receives orbital data from space surveillance sensors located around the world, including the Morón Optical Space Surveillance System.
MOSS was initially deployed in June 1990 as the Transportable Optical System, the optical sub-component of the Combined Radio-Frequency Optical Surveillance System, located at San Vito Air Station, Italy. The system was fielded to replace the aging Baker-Nunn optical telescope. During this period, the system was operated by Detachment 1, 73rd Space Surveillance Group.
Detachment 1, 73rd Space Surveillance Group was inactivated in September 1993 due to closure of San Vito Air Station, and TOS was returned for refurbishment to the Experimental Test Site at Socorro, N.M., which is managed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lincoln Laboratories.
TOS was re-deployed in June 1997 and assigned to the newly constituted Detachment 4, 18th Space Surveillance Squadron, Morón Air Base, Spain. Detachment 4 reached initial operational capability in September 1998, at which time the system was re-designated the Morón Optical Space Surveillance System. The unit was renamed Detachment 4, 18th Space Control Squadron in March 2003. In June 2004 the unit was again renamed as Detachment 4, 21st Operations Group due to the 18th Space Control Squadron's inactivation.
Detachment 4 operates the $5 million state-of-the-art Morón Optical Space Surveillance System to detect, track and identify all manmade deep-space objects in support of the USSTRATCOM's space control mission. The unit also reports new foreign and domestic launches to the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), and to the National Air and Space Intelligence Center.
In this role, Detachment 4 supports the $3.2 billion worldwide space surveillance network, providing real-time space control for warfighters and national decision makers.
This site plays a vital role in tracking more than 2,500 orbiting objects, particularly those in deep space orbits more than 3,000 miles from Earth, including navigational and geostationary communications satellites.
The Morón Optical Space Surveillance is a passive, ground-based, real-time, electro-optical, deep-space surveillance sensor. It provides information on man-made objects in deep space, including satellites in geosynchronous and semi synchronous Earth orbit. The system primarily provides high-quality metric (positional) data on all detected objects. The system also collects object brightness data for space object identification. MOSS was deployed to augment the Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance network in order to provide coverage over the Mediterranean region.
MOSS consists of a windowed 56 cm (22 in.) f/2.3 modified Ritchy-Chretien telescope mounted on a lightweight azimuth/elevation NIKE-AJAX mount. The telescope is equipped with a new state-of-the-art frame transfer CCD camera which provides increased accuracy and sensitivity while reducing the time required to track objects. The sensor has a field of view of 1.54 degrees diagonal. The system is controlled from a 30-foot by 23-foot Space Operations Center, manned with one space operator and one communications and electronics technician.