Thule welcomes new antenna to the family

Detachment 1, 23rd Space Operations Squadron, gained operational acceptance of the seventh and final Remote Block Change antenna at Thule Air Base, Greenland, July, 26, 2016. The antenna, designated as POGO-Charlie, represents some of the latest telemetry, tracking and command technologies in the Air Force. (Courtesy Photo)

Detachment 1, 23rd Space Operations Squadron, gained operational acceptance of the seventh and final Remote Block Change antenna at Thule Air Base, Greenland, July, 26, 2016. The antenna, designated as POGO-Charlie, represents some of the latest telemetry, tracking and command technologies in the Air Force. (Courtesy Photo)

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland --

Detachment 1, 23rd Space Operations Squadron, gained full operational acceptance of the seventh and final Remote Tracking Station Block Change antenna July 26, 2016, at Thule Air Base, Greenland.

The antenna, designated POGO-Charlie, is a vital asset to the Air Force Satellite Control Network, which consists of seven ground stations located around the world. 

These remote tracking stations support space operations by allowing Department of Defense, national, allied and civilian satellite operators to communicate with more than 175 satellites; the RTS’s also support launch, early orbit and end of life operations.

Operational acceptance was the final step in the installation of the antenna at Thule AB. Beforehand, the antenna remained in a testing period to identify and resolve any deficiencies. A final vote from stakeholders determined whether the antenna would be considered fully operational.

The vote was unanimously cast in favor of acceptance of the antenna as a fully operational asset.

Col. William Angerman, 50th Network Operations Group commander, explained the antenna’s acceptance is strategically crucial.

“The POGO-C antenna is important as its location in Thule, Greenland, is ideal for contacting polar-orbiting satellites.  About four years ago, a legacy antenna failure reduced the number of antennas to only one,” said Angerman.

This left the station handicapped, forcing the AFSCN to lean on three other antennas at New Boston Air Force Station, New Hampshire, to compensate and support the satellite mission.

Lt. Col. Marty Easter, 23 SOPS commander, explained the newest antenna brings the AFSCN back to a more ideal, modernized configuration.

“RBC antennas are the latest version of the systems we use to command and control satellites on orbit. The benefit is that this is a more modern system compared to the previous generation. The (technology) is a windows based system with a point and click interface. It is the next generation of systems for the AFSCN and brings a new level of sustainability and operational capability,” explained Easter.

Although spirits are high for AFSCN personnel, team members recalled the hard road that led to this point. Thule’s harsh, arctic weather conditions made maintenance difficult to accomplish.

“The final antenna did present some challenges because of the remote location of Thule. The 50th Space Wing worked very closely with the Space and Missiles Systems Center, 21st Space Wing and the 821st Air Base Group to manage the complicated logistics of installation, testing and operational acceptance of the equipment and the personnel required to accomplish all those tasks,” said Easter.  

The acceptance of the antenna was no small venture, and required coordination from several agencies.

The SMC, Range and Network Division oversaw the engineering, installation and issue resolution of the antenna. The 22nd Space Operations Squadron oversaw the operational test period and satellite user coordination, observing 691 satellite contacts with a more than 98.7 percent success rate.

23 SOPS oversees three of seven AFSCN sites, including POGO (Det. 1, 23 SOPS). Det. 1 operates the actual antenna. The detachment also provides real-time feedback for satellite user requirements and configuration issues.

Angerman explained his AFSCN team’s work in the operation should not go unnoticed. Their accomplishment affects the world around them.

“I would like to thank and acknowledge the hard work and dedication of all the men and women from the AFSCN who have supported the effort. The POGO-C antenna returns the AFSCN to an optimal configuration where worldwide antennas provide access to space for (more than) 175 different satellites every single day,” he said.