Vandenberg Tracking Station Transition to Operations (OMRT)
By Capt. D. William Benton, SCNS/SSD
/ Published June 05, 2008
Los Angeles Air Force Base -- The 50th Space Wing formally accepted maintenance and operations responsibility for the new Remote Tracking Station (RTS) Block Change (RBC) upgrade at the Vandenberg Tracking Station (VTS), Vandenberg AFB, California, in an April 16 ceremony at the VTS site. VTS Site Commander, Major Michael Brownworth, and Satellite Control and Network Systems Squadron Commander, Major Sean Rucker, put pen to paper in the presence of program office, contractor, and user community teammates.
The 60 million-dollar common-user satellite ground station replaces a 35-year old antenna and associated electronics nearing obsolescence. The modernization was executed by the Satellite Control and Network Systems Group of the Space and Missile Systems Center and prime contractor Honeywell Technology Solutions, Inc. The RBC design relied heavily upon integrating modern commercial-off-the-shelf technology with the Air Force Satellite Control Network (AFSCN) legacy communication systems, some over 50 years old. This first increment delivery provides highly reliable telemetry, tracking, command and control communications with greatly increased automation in scheduling, system configuration, and satellite mission execution. Other improvements include a three-axis parabolic antenna designed to eliminate the "blind spot" typically found on a two-axis antenna thus increasing the fidelity on high-elevation satellite contacts. The open system architecture also provides greater flexibility for future technology insertion. The VTS delivery is the first article in a series of 16 RBC C2 systems slated for delivery at eight tracking stations worldwide.
This success comes on the heels of two months of Integrated Systems Testing. The RBC system demonstrated its ability to support the AFSCN mission with a 99 percent space vehicle contact success rate, over 599 missions with 75 unique Department of Defense, National Reconnaissance Office, and Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites. This transition strengthens the AFSCN mission of ensuring responsive, effective support to warfighters by support to over 170 DoD, NRO, Civil and Allied satellites. The AFSCN enables launch, surveillance, navigation, communication, intelligence, warning and weather missions.