First Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Director Receives Piece of Last Satellite

  • Published
  • SMC Remote Sensing Systems Directorate

The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) began in 1960 as a short term, 22-month program designed to support cloud-free photo reconnaissance.  Nearly 60 years later, the DMSP constellation is still providing invaluable weather data to the military and civil community.  This success is possible in no small part due the leadership of the first DMSP director, retired Air Force Colonel Tom Haig, now 96 years old.  To thank him for his revolutionary work, the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Remote Sensing Systems Directorate (RS) presented Haig with a sun sensor detector from the final DMSP satellite Aug. 9 in Madison, Wisconsin.  The presentation recognized a true pioneer in the field of space-based environmental monitoring for his contributions to Air Force space and national defense. 

During the 1950s, Haig worked on balloon reconnaissance programs and later managed requirements for satellite ground support at the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division.  After the National Reconnaissance Office established a meteorological satellite program in 1961, he was selected to create and manage the DMSP program.  As the first DMSP director, his successes include obtaining weather information for reconnaissance missions during the Cuban Missile Crisis and providing DMSP data in support of tactical military operations during the Vietnam conflict.  He retired from active duty in 1968 and his name was engraved in the Schriever Wall of Honor at Los Angeles Air Force Base in May 2015.  Haig paved the way for the Remote Sensing Systems Directorate’s mission today; to provide global, persistent infrared surveillance and environmental monitoring capabilities to our warfighters and the nation.  

The opportunity to provide the first DMSP director with a piece of the last DMSP satellite was not one the Remote Sensing Systems Directorate was willing to pass up. Dr. Stephen Pluntze, RS deputy director and former director of the Defense Weather Systems Directorate traveled to Madison to personally present the DMSP’s sun sensor detector to Col. Haig in front of colonel’s friends and family. 

“Tom literally started and was the first to lead DMSP, and I can think of no one better to have this piece of the final DMSP satellite” said Pluntze.  “The incredible things our nation’s environmental monitoring programs are able to achieve today are a direct result of the ground breaking work Tom did at the inception of the nation’s space-based weather program.”