June 03, 2019

Preparing for Future Space Flights

BY RACHEL S. COHEN

More than 1,600 miles separates the 2nd Space Operations Squadron’s (SOPS) GPS team from the military space debates churning in Washington and while they don’t get the final say over what happens next for Air Force Space Command’s warfighters, they do control how they prepare. 

GPS is just one of the missions run out of this base in the rolling hills near the Rocky Mountains, which also oversees operations for a range of communications satellites, surveillance, and weather systems, as well as the X-37B experimental space plane. 

“The largest change we have seen to date is just a better understanding of how large space is, the competition in space, and how we need to be prepared for operating in what [may] no longer be a benign environment,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Toth, 2nd SOPS commander, in an interview. “We’ve started getting after training our operators in new and different ways … much more like the flying side of the Air Force.” 

That means the 10 GPS operators on each shift now have to think about potential threats, possible avenues for attack, and adversaries they may notice either in orbit or within the systems they run. Is the anomaly on their screen just a blip, or is it enemy interference?