COLORADO SPRINGS – Air Force Space Command is run out of Colorado Springs, but its operation happens worldwide. Its mission reaches thousands of miles into air and space. “Our ability to defend ourself as a nation has become dependent on space,” Air Force Major, Jeffrey Rivenbark, “Our ability to operate every major military operation today, depends on space.”
Monitoring and utilizing space requires a network of stations around the world. The 50th Space Wing is headquartered at Schriever Air Force Base. It links to a network of nearly 190 satellites through remote sites, like the New Boston Air Force Station in New Hampshire. “You can’t command or talk to a satellite you can’t see,” said Major Rivenbark who is based at the new Boston Station. There are seven other similar stations around the world.
The station is home to a half dozen massive antennas that can link with satellites 22,000 miles in space. “Without that capability, satellites don’t fly, data doesn’t flow, missions don’t get accomplished,” He explains satellites do not fly on their own. Every satellite under U.S. control is monitored around the clock. If diagnostics show problems, teams on the ground take action to keep optimum satellite function.
The Cape Cod Air Station, 125 miles south of New Boston also looks into air and space, but with a different mission. It is tracking the skies for ballistic missile attacks aimed at North America. “So that we can notify Cheyenne Mountain where the missile warning center is,” said Lieutenant Colonel, James Roberts, “So they can then share that data to the other centers also tracking on that object and provide an attack assessment.” A secondary mission is tracking and cataloging objects in lower space orbit.
The Cape Cod Station is another outpost of Space Command. It is part of the 21st Space Wing, based at Peterson Air Force Base. It monitors everything over the Atlantic Ocean. There are half a dozen similar air stations located at other strategic geographic locations around the world.
The 21st Space Wing operates massive radar towers that send waves 3,000 nautical miles to detect objects in air and space. “We can change the electrical pulses many times a second and therefore track multiple objects simultaneously,” said Roberts. The radar can track objects in space moving at 17,000 miles an hour. “With all the objects that are currently orbiting up there it’s just a traffic wreck waiting to happen,” said Roberts. If a potential problem is spotted, a warning is sent up the chain of command so action can be taken to avoid catastrophe.
There are no airplanes coming and going from either Air Force Station. Instead, technology sends information faster and further than a plane can travel. A network commanded in Colorado Springs.