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3rd Space Surveillance Squadron [3rd SPSS]

The 3rd Space Surveillance Squadron, located at Misawa Air Base, Japan, conducts deep space surveillance. The squadron is a geographically separated unit assigned to the 21st Space Wing, Peterson AFB, CO.

The mission of the 3rd SPSS is to detect, track, identify and catalog man-made objects orbiting Earth.

The squadron is one of two Deep Space Tracking System squadrons located throughout the world. The DSTS tracks objects orbiting more than 22,300 miles above the Earth. More than 9,500 man-made objects orbit the Earth, ranging in size from a baseball to the Mir space station.

The 3rd SPSS forwards this data to the 1st Command and Control Squadron and the Space Control Center, Cheyenne Mountain Air Station, CO. The 1st CACS and the center use this information, along with other data, to catalog and identify all man-made Earth-orbiting objects. Several agencies use this information for everything from collision avoidance to intelligence. Because of its mission, the 3rd SPSS works closely with Det. 3, 18th Intelligence Squadron, Schriever AFB, CO. The detachment provides specialized intelligence information necessary for the 3rd SPSS to perform its deep space surveillance mission. Though Det. 3 is controlled by the 18th IS at Schriever AFB, it is an administrative subordinate of the 544th Intelligence Group at Peterson.

The contract to construct the present site of the 3rd SPSS (project name RINGO) was awarded on August 27, 1989, and was completed on March 16, 1991. Two antennas, an operations building, support building, pump housing and entry control point were constructed. Construction of the third antenna began on October 1, 1991, and was completed on May 31, 1992. The last site building, UPS building, was finished in August 1994. The initial DSTS obtained initial operating capability in April 1994. The site is situated on 37 acres.

The 3rd Space Surveillance Squadron was originally constituted as the 3rd Surveillance Squadron on 10 August 1990. The squadron stood up as Det. 3, 73rd Space Group in January 1991. Redesignated as the 3rd Space Surveillance Squadron, it activated, on 1 October 1992 at Misawa AB, Japan. Assigned to the 73rd Space Group, the 3rd was tasked with operating passive sensors for the Deep Space Tracking System.

The 3rd SPSS was reassigned to the 21st Operations Group on 26 April 1995.

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