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Det 3, 21st Operations Group

Detachment 3, 21st OPERATIONS GROUP
Maui, Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance (GEODSS)

Detachment 3, 21st Operations Group is a dedicated space surveillance unit in the state of Hawaii, on the island of Maui, approximately 100 miles southeast of Hickam Air Force Base (AFB) on the island of Oahu. The detachment operates at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex, located atop the 10,023 foot summit of Haleakala, a dormant volcano.

The primary mission of the detachment is to detect, track and identify all tasked space objects within its area of coverage. The unit usually provides data on deep space objects in the orbits from 3,000 to 22,000 miles, although it has a limited near earth detection capability. Satellite information is provided to the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg AFB, California. Additionally, GEODSS provides Space Object Identification (SOI) to the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio.

The detachment is one of three worldwide GEODSS sites. The GEODSS site performs its mission using three powerful telescopes; low light level, electro-optical cameras; and high speed computers. Detachment 3 uses three, 1-meter telescopes with a 1.68-degree field of view. GEODSS telescopes primarily operate between civil sunset and civil sunrise, just before all ambient light is out of the atmosphere. The isolated mountaintop of Haleakala provides an excellent location for such operations.

The detachment was activated on 1 June 1979 as Operating Location AA of the 46th Aerospace Defense Wing to aid in the, then named, Maui Optical Tracking and Identification Facility (MOTIF) transition into the North American Aerospace Defense Command/Aerospace Defense Command, spacetrack network. On 1 October 1981, the unit became Detachment 3, 1st Strategic Aerospace Division, Strategic Air Command. Maui's GEODSS system achieved Initial Operating Capability on 1 October 1982. The detachment became part of the 1st Space Wing, Air Force Space Command on 1 May 1983. On 1 February 1990, it was assigned to the 18th Space Surveillance Squadron at Peterson Air Force, CO. Both the detachment and its parent squadron were reassigned from the wing to the 73d Space Group on 15 May 1992, when the group was activated and assumed responsibility for all space surveillance units. In July 1995, the 18 SPSS relocated to Edwards AFB. The group was deactivated in May 1995 and all units, including the 18 SPSS, were assigned to the 21st Space Wing. In 2003, the 18 SPSS was renamed the 18th Space Control Squadron. However, the squadron was deactivated at Edwards AFB in June 2004. Subsequently, the detachment, along with its two sister sites located at Socorro, New Mexico (Det1) and Diego Garcia, B.I.O.T. in the Indian Ocean (Det 2) were realigned directly under the 21st Operations Group.

In June 2004, the GEODSS system underwent a major technology upgrade. The antiquated and difficult-to-sustain Silicon Intensified Target (SIT) tubes were replaced by the digital Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) chips. With this upgrade, known as Deep STARE, came a phenomenal increase in the accuracy and throughput of observations, resulting in many more objects tracked with much better positional data flowing to the JSpOC and NASIC. Another upgrade to the system involved the ability to automatically detect sky visibility with the addition of an Infra-Red Cloud-imaging instrument. Sensor tasking is now much more efficient as the GEODSS telescopes execute tasking in 'clear' zones rather than attempting to track through the constantly changing cloud layers. 

The site is operated and maintained entirely by a contractor work force. The assigned Air Force Space Command Officer has the responsibility for ensuring that the operational mission is accomplished and that work required by the contract is performed satisfactorily.

In addition to the Mt. Haleakala observatory, where the operational mission is performed and applicable quality assurance evaluations are accomplished, the detachment maintains an office in Kihei, where detachment administration and contract management functions are conducted.

Det 3, 21st OG is a tenant at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex (MSSC) hosted by Det 15, AFRL (AFMC). Transition of host responsibilities from AFSPC to AFMC took place 1 October, 2000. While Det 3, 21st OG retains responsibility for conducting and maintaining the GEODSS mission, the facilities as well as the Maui Space Surveillance System (MSSS) and Advanced Electro-Optical System (AEOS) missions, comprising the remainder of the MSSC, are the responsibility of the commander, Det 15, AFRL.

The detachment sits atop of Mt. Haleakala on the island of Maui, Hawaii. Maui is 100 miles southeast of Honolulu and Hickam AFB, Oahu, Hawaii.