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20th Space Surveillance Squadron [20th SPSS]

The 20th Space Surveillance Squadron, Eglin Air Force Base, FL, is a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing, Peterson AFB, CO.

The 20th Space Surveillance Squadron provides dedicated active radar space surveillance. In addition, other collateral and contributing missile warning and research radars are used to support the surveillance mission.

The 20th SPSS tracks about 9,500 Earth and deep space objects, giving theater warfighters advanced knowledge of possible enemy intelligencegathering satellites and improving their knowledge about what information those satellites could provide. The unit is located on Eglin AFB, which rests on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida's Northwest Panhandle. A tenant organization, the 20th SPSS is some 35 miles east of the main portion of Eglin AFB, which is referred to by locals as "Eglin Main".

The 20th SPSS operates and maintains the only USAF phased array space surveillance system dedicated to tracking over 9,000 near-earth and deepspace objects, the AN/FPS85 Phased Array Radar. It executes a space control mission by performing allweather, daynight location and tracking of manmade objects, and supports USCINCSPACE and theater warfighters' requirements through continuous surveillance of orbiting satellites.

The 20th SPSS is tasked with:

  • Tracking man made objects in Earth's orbit, around the clock, in any weather;
  • Supporting the U.S. Space Command commander in chief and theater warfighter's requirements through continuous surveillance of onorbit satellites; and
  • Operating and maintaining the Air Force's only phased array space surveillance system dedicated to tracking space objects.

The Air Force took ownership of the site in September 1968 with the 20th Surveillance Squadron as the primary operator. The 20th had been constituted and activated, on 9 November 1966, under Air Defense Command; and organized on 1 January 1967 at Eglin AFB, assigned to the 73rd Aerospace Surveillance Wing.

Initially charged with tracking objects in Earth's orbit, new software installed in 1975 allowed tracking of submarine launched ballistic missiles. This became the unit's primary mission, while continuing to perform space tracking.

The AN/FPS85 played an active role in America's space program. From 1971 to 1984, the 20th SURS was the site of the Alternate Space Surveillance Center. It provided computational support to the Space Surveillance Center at Cheyenne Mountain AS, CO. If the need arose, the squadron could assume command and control for worldwide space track sensors.

The 20th SURS was renamed the 20th Missile Warning Squadron in 1979; the 2159th Communications Squadron was added in the same year. In May 1983, the squadron joined Air Force Space Command and became a component of the U.S. Space Command. During this time, the AN/FPS85 was the proving ground for the Air Force's phased array radars. The new technology was used in new radars specifically designed and located for early warning of SLBM attacks. These PAVE Phased Array Warning System radars assumed early warning responsibilities from the 20th MWS. Eventually, these sites included the current 6th Space Warning Squadron, Cape Cod AS, MA, and the 7th Space Warning Squadron, Beale AFB, CA.

In 1987, the site returned to its original mission space surveillance. The 2159th Communications Squadron went through a number of transitions and eventually deactivated and incorporated into the 20th MWS. The squadron became the 20th Surveillance Squadron in May 1987.

When the site underwent a major transition, Defense Department civilians began to staff the majority of support and maintenance functions, while military people were put to command section, orderly room and operations functions.

The unit moved to the 73rd Space Group and was renamed the 20th Space Surveillance Squadron in May 1992. When the 73rd SG inactivated in 1995, the unit was transferred to the 21st Space Wing.

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Page last modified: 20-07-2011 23:25:18 ZULU