June 17, 1997: 18th Space Surveillance Squadron Tenant Unit

  • Published
  • U.S. Space Command

The 18th Space Surveillance Squadron became a tenant organization at Edwards AFB. The Air Force Space Command unit was housed in the surplus Joint Propulsion Laboratory buildings at North Base. Its mission involved detecting, tracking, identifying, and collecting the special signatures of objects in both near and deep space.

The 18th Space Surveillance Squadron, Edwards Air Force Base is an Air Force Space Command geographically separated unit of 21st Operations Group, Peterson AFB, Colorado. The unit provides optical surveillance for the Space Surveillance Network. 

The squadron is responsible for managing four Groundbased Electro-optical Deep Space Surveillance sites around the world. The unit manages the Transportable Optical System and the Maui Space Surveillance System.  These two systems, in conjunction with the Maui system, make up the Maui Space Surveillance Complex.  Besides providing staffing support and quality assurance management to a work force of more than 150 military and contractors at the worldwide detachments, the unit operates the Optical Command, Control and Communications Facility. The command facility became the centralized node for the control of the squadron's optical detachments around the world.  These system sites play a vital role in tracking some 2,000 objects in space, all of which are at least 3,000 miles from the Earth's surface.  Each site has three telescopes, two mains and an auxiliary, except Det. 2, which has three main telescopes. Each main telescope has a 40-inch aperture and a two-degree field of view. The auxiliary has a 15-inch aperture and a six-degree field of view. The auxiliary telescopes at detachments 1 and 3 were upgraded to mains in 1997.

The squadron's operators can control the remote telescopes from Edwards.  Four computers work with the telescopes and cameras.  The telescopes focus on a portion of the sky and move at the same speed as the stars appear to move.  As the telescope is slowly moving, the star images which remain fixed are electronically erased from the picture.  Since the telescope is moving at the same speed, any stars will appear stationary on the picture.

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