Air Force Space Command, activated Sept. 1, 1982, is a major command with headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. AFSPC provides military focused space capabilities with a global perspective to the joint warfighting team.
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Fourteenth Air Force is located at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., and provides space capabilities for the joint fight through the operational missions of spacelift; position, navigation and timing; satellite communications; missile warning, space control, and space electronic warfare.
The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) at Los Angeles AFB, Calif., designs and acquires all Air Force and most Department of Defense space systems. It oversees launches, completes on-orbit checkouts and then turns systems over to user agencies. It supports the Program Executive Office for Space on the Global Positioning System (GPS), Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite program, Wideband Global Satellite Communication (WGS), Defense Satellite Communications and MILSTAR systems. SMC also supports the National Security Space Launch (NSSL), Defense Meteorological Satellite and Defense Support programs and the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS).
AFSPC major installations include: Schriever, Peterson and Buckley Air Force bases in Colorado; Los Angeles and Vandenberg Air Force bases in California; and Patrick AFB in Florida. Major AFSPC units also reside on bases managed by other commands in New Mexico, Virginia and Georgia. AFSPC manages many smaller installations and geographically separated units in North Dakota, Alaska, Hawaii and across the globe.
Spacelift operations at the East and West Coast launch bases provide services, facilities and range safety control for the conduct of DOD, NASA and commercial launches. Through the command and control of all DOD satellites, satellite operators provide force-multiplying effects -- continuous global coverage, low vulnerability and autonomous operations. Satellites provide essential in-theater secure communications, weather and navigational data for ground, air and fleet operations and threat warning.
Ground-based radar, SBIRS and Defense Support Program satellites monitor ballistic missile launches around the world to guard against a surprise missile attack on North America. Space surveillance radars provide vital information on the location of satellites and space debris for the nation and the world. Maintaining space superiority is an emerging capability required to protect U.S. space assets.
AFSPC acquires, operates and supports GPS, the Defense Satellite Communications System, Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, Defense Support Program, WGS, MILSTAR and AEHF, Global Broadcast Service, SBIRS and the Space Based Space Surveillance satellite.
AFSPC’s launch operations include the Eastern and Western ranges and range support for all launches. The command maintains and operates a worldwide network of satellite tracking stations, called the Air Force Satellite Control Network, to provide communications links to satellites. SMC manages the NSSL program, formerly the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. The NSSL program procures launch services from United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX). The NSSL program is designed to continue to procure affordable National Security Space launch services, maintain assured access to space, and ensure mission success with viable domestic launch service providers. The program is driven to provide launch flexibility that meets warfighter needs while leveraging the robust U.S. commercial launch industry.
Ground-based multi-mission radars used primarily for ballistic missile warning include the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System, Upgraded Early Warning Radar System, PAVE Phased Array Warning System, and Perimeter Acquisition Radar Attack Characterization System. The Bounty Hunter system provides Satellite Communication (SATCOM) Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) Resolution by monitoring, detecting, characterizing, geolocating and reporting SATCOM EMI to command authorities. The Maui Optical Tracking Identification Facility, Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System, phased-array and mechanical radars provide primary space surveillance coverage. New transformational space programs are continuously being researched and developed to enable AFSPC to stay on the leading-edge of technology.
In 1982, the Air Force established Air Force Space Command, with space operations as its primary mission. During the Cold War, space operations focused on missile warning, launch operations, satellite control, space surveillance and command and control for national leadership. In 1991, Operation Desert Storm validated the command’s continuing focus on support to the warfighter. The Space Warfare Center, later renamed the Space Innovation and Development Center (now inactive), was created to ensure space capabilities reached the warfighters who needed it. ICBM forces joined AFSPC in July 1993.
In 2001, upon the recommendation of the Space Commission, SMC transferred from Air Force Materiel Command to AFSPC. AFSPC is currently the only Air Force major command to have its acquisition arm within the command. In 2002, also on a recommendation from the Space Commission, AFSPC was assigned its own four-star commander after previously sharing a commander with U.S. Space Command and NORAD.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the president directed military action against Afghanistan and Iraq. AFSPC provided extensive space-based support to the U.S. Central Command commander in the areas of communications; positioning, navigation and timing; meteorology; and warning. In 2005, the Air Force expanded its mission areas to include cyberspace. In concert with this, the Air Staff assigned responsibility for conducting cyberspace operations to AFSPC through Twenty-fourth Air Force, which was activated in August 2009.
In order to reinvigorate the Air Force’s nuclear mission, Headquarters U.S. Air Force activated Air Force Global Strike Command to consolidate all nuclear forces under one command. As a result, AFSPC transferred its ICBM forces to the new command in December 2009.
In July 2018, the Air Force cyber mission was transferred to Air Combat Command, which generated the greatest capacity for an integrated Information Warfare capability within the Air Force. This move allowed AFSPC to focus on gaining and maintaining space superiority and outpacing any adversaries in the space domain.
In August 2019, the AFSPC commander was assigned the dual-hat responsibility of U.S. Space Command commander in recognition of space as a separate geographic warfighting domain; and to allow for unity of effort in meeting the rapidly growing threat in the congested and contested space domain.
On Dec. 20, 2019, Air Force Space Command was redesignated as the U.S. Space Force, the sixth branch of the U.S. military.
(Current as of December 2019)