SBIRS constellation forms under one roof

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Emily E. Amyotte
  • 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from the 460th Operations Group have made history by successfully completing the first series of Space Based Infrared System satellite and antenna communication on Jan. 28-30 from Block 10, the new operations floor, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo.

The communication to SBIRS satellites and ground antennas is the first step in transforming Block 10 into the new, consolidated operations floor for Defense Support Program, Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) and Geostationary satellites.

Currently, each type of satellite communication platform is in separate locations across Colorado, making it difficult to communicate efficiently as a whole. Bringing the three units together will unify the SBIRS constellation under one roof.

"The intent of Block 10 is to bring all three platforms here in one place to the Mission Control Station," said Capt. Natasha Rosario, the 2nd Space Warning Squadron SBIRS satellite engineering chief.

Wing and operations group leadership were at Block 10 Jan. 28, waiting to see history be made, and a celebration broke out when the command came back successful.

"It was kind of fun," Rosario said. "They sent the very first one which was on DSP, and everyone clapped after the first command went out. They were like, 'yes it worked!'"

It could be a year and a half until all three platforms will work on the Block 10 floor, which will then be called Mission Control Station 2, Rosario said. There will be a period of checking out the Block 10 system and software, assuring the ground software delivery can be executed flawlessly.

"We've put testing and rehearsals and practices in place to make sure that we not only check out the system, but that the people are also ready and bringing those two things together as well," Rosario said.

Starting with live, single communication, which is what they have already begun, the 460th OG will continue testing their communication with only one satellite or antenna at a time.

The second stage, which will be communicating with two satellites or antennas at a time, will begin in the next month or two. For example, communicating with Geosynchronous Earth Orbit and HEO simultaneously. An estimated year from now, the 460th OG will have full communication with the entire SBIRS constellation at one time.

This advancement means a lot for the 460th OG and Team Buckley as a whole Rosario said. The squadron will almost double in size and many OG Airmen will have to undertake many hours of training to keep up with the transition to Block 10.

Airmen from the other Colorado SBIRS locations are scheduled to move to Buckley to finish the transition and unify the SBIRS constellation.

"This is a major milestone for a multi-billion dollar system toward a critical national mission in which we have been diligently working for a very long time," said Col. Michael Jackson, the 460th OG commander.