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The Cape, Chapter I, Section 2

USAF Space Organizations and Programs

The Creation of Air Force Space Command and Transfer of Air Force Space Resources

As space technology evolved in the 1960s and 70s, space systems were applied to the Defense Department's weather, communications, navigation, surveillance and early warning missions. Air Force space operations thus became an indispensable part of the U.S. defense effort by the late 1970s, but the management of space systems was shared among three different organizations (e.g., AFSC, North American Aerospace Defense Command and Strategic Air Command). To redress this fragmentation of its space effort, the Air Staff decided to place space systems operations under a separate major command and create an organization within the Air Staff to supervise the effort. Toward that end, the Directorate of Space Operations was set up under the Air Force's Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations in October 1981, and the Air Force created Air Force Space Command (AFSPACECOM) on 1 September 1982. The transfer of operational space vehicles (i.e., satellites) from one command to another was not expected to happen overnight, but AFSPACECOM would eventually operate the Satellite Early Warning System, the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP), the NAVSTAR Global Positioning System (GPS) and various ground surveillance and control systems. Space Division would continue to procure launch vehicles, upper stages and spacecraft for the Air Force even after control of the various satellite systems passed to AFSPACECOM. The organizational link between Space Division and AFSPACECOM would be maintained in the person of the Space Division Commander, who also served as Vice Commander, AFSPACECOM.16

As might be expected, one of the new command's greatest challenges in the 1980s was its receipt of control of operational satellite systems from Space Division. The process was very complex and lengthy, and Space Division continued to operate the Air Force Satellite Control Facility (AFSCF) at Sunnyvale, California during the first five years of AFSPACECOM's existence. The Division also pursued the development of the Consolidated Space Operations Center (CSOC) near AFSPACECOM's headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. Following the CSOC ground-breaking ceremony on 17 May 1983, site preparation and construction were soon underway, and the building phase was completed in September 1985. In accordance with a Memorandum of Agreement signed by Space Division and AFSPACECOM in 1982 and supplemented in 1984, CSOC became an AFSPACECOM "service organization" Command owned CSOC's main elements (located in the Satellite Operations Complex), and Space Division transferred most of CSOC's control elements to AFSPACECOM following the inactivation of the AFSCF on 1 October 1987. Air Force Space Command thus became the Air Force's primary agent for satellite operations. While most of the AFSCF's resources were in AFSPACECOM's hands, Space Division's Consolidated Space Test Center (CSTC) still provided telemetry, tracking and control for all military research and development satellites as well as similar services for operational satellites from launch until early orbit.17

From the organizational perspective, the transfer of launch operations from Air Force Systems Command to Air Force Space Command was AFSPACECOM's most significant event of the early 1990s. At long last, space operations, from lift-off to satellite deactivation, were assigned to a major operational command. Though the transition to full operational status took several years, the path was clearly laid out in AFSPACECOM's Programming Plan 90-2 (Launch Transfer), which was signed by General Ronald W. Yates (for AFSC) and Lt. General Thomas S. Moorman, Jr. (for AFSPACECOM) at the end of August 1990. According to that plan, Phase I of the Launch Transfer began on 1 October 1990. On that date, ESMC, WSMC and their associated range organizations transferred from AFSC to AFSPACECOM along with the 6550th Air Base Group, Patrick Air Force Base, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and AFSC Hospital Patrick. The aerospace test groups on both coasts remained with AFSC, but two new organizations-the 1st and 2nd Space Launch Squadrons-were activated and assigned to AFSPACECOM on 1 October 1990. The 1st,which was constituted from resources taken from the 6555th Aerospace Test Group at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, became AFSPACECOM's first DELTA II launch squadron. The 2nd, which was created from resources taken from the 6595th Aerospace Test Group at Vandenberg, became an ATLAS E squadron under WSMC. Though the 6555th Test Group's ATLAS and TITAN resources were not ready to become operational squadrons on October 1st, Air Force Systems Command transformed them into ATLAS II and TITAN IV Combined Test Forces (CTFs) to serve both major commands until such time as they could become operational squadrons under AFSPACECOM. A Combined Test Force for TITAN II/IV operations at Vandenberg was anticipated under Phase II of the Launch Transfer Plan, but, as of this writing, it had not occurred. The TITAN IV CTF (a.k.a. TITAN IV Launch Operations) became the 5th Space Launch Squadron on 14 April 1994.18

One more organization must be mentioned before we discuss specific military space programs and strategies: the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO). In a speech given in March 1983, President Ronald Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) as a means of rendering nuclear weapons obsolete. (President Reagan subsequently redefined SDI as a research program utilizing new technologies to create effective defenses against ballistic missiles.) The goal of SDI was to strengthen deterrence and provide better security of the United States and its allies. In support of the President's proposal, the Defense Department established the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization in late March 1984, and it named Lt. General James A. Abrahamson as the SDIO's first director. General Abrahamson assumed the Director's post on 16 April 1984. The SDIO established the following five program elements under which individual SDI efforts could be funded and pursued: 1) surveillance, acquisition, tracking and kill assessment (SATKA), 2) directed energy weapons (DEW), 3) kinetic energy weapons (KEW), 4) battle management (command, communications and control), and 5) systems analysis and support programs. The SDIO issued direction for each of those program elements through Work Package Directives (WPDs) to the armed services. The majority of the effort was undertaken by the Air Force and Army. The Air Force managed programs related to boost and mid-course phases of ballistic missile interdiction; the Army managed terminal phase/ground defense programs. Space Division acted as the Air Force's "lead division" for all SDI-related projects except battle management. Battle management was handled by Air Force Systems Command's Electronic Systems Division (ESD). As we shall see in Chapters II and III, SDIO projects and experiments went hand-in-hand with other military space activities at the Cape in the 1980s and early 1990s.19

Figure 18:
1st Space Launch Squadron Emblem

Figure 19:
2nd Space Launch Squadron Emblem

The Cape: Miltary Space Operations 1971-1992
by Mark C. Cleary, Chief Historian
45 Space Wing Office of History
1201 Minuteman Ave, Patrick AFB, FL 32925

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