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New antenna begins testing

by Maj. Dean Bellamy
23rd Space Operations Squadron

12/18/2006 - NEW BOSTON AIR FORCE STATION, N.H. (AFPN) -- The 23rd Space Operations Squadron here began operations confidence testing of its newest Air Force Satellite Control Network antenna Dec. 14.

Operational testing will verify the antenna is fully prepared to conduct satellite supports as part of the squadron's 24-hour mission, said station manager Bill Rayfield.

"It's important that we do this testing right so we can get this asset online," said Lt. Col. Stan Stafira, the 23rd SOPS commander.

Passive autotrack tests went exceptionally well, said 1st Lt. Jason Parslow, the chief of the hardware and communication projects for the Space and Missile Systems Center detachment at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and site Government Program Office lead.

"We're excited to prove our system through operational space vehicle supports," Lieutenant Parslow said.

The testing that began Dec. 14 is the first of four rounds of tests. Phase two will be a second operations confidence test; the third phase will be a segment verification test, and the final phase will comprise integrated system testing.

Installation of the new antenna began July 12, 2004. Construction of the radome housing the antenna was finished Sept. 15, 2005. The radome's primary purpose is to protect the antenna from the environment, keeping maintenance and downtime to a minimum.

The new antenna replaces a 44-year-old antenna that was decommissioned in 2004 due to a bad azimuth bearing. Master Sgt. Mike Norton, a quality assurance evaluator with 23rd SOPS, recalled seeing the original antenna before it was retired.

"Imagine an antenna weighing 119,000 pounds moving 15 degrees per second," Sergeant Norton said. "That was impressive for an antenna built during the early days."

Increasing demand on AFSCN resources took its toll on the antenna, which was originally designed for a 10- to 12-year lifetime.

"We loved that old antenna," said Randy Smith, an ARTS operator. "Taxpayers sure got their money's worth out of it."

While the new antenna was under construction, SMC's Transportable Space Test and Evaluation Resource filled in for the original antenna.

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