Author Topic: Space Fence To Be Shutdown  (Read 13060 times)

Offline arachnitect

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Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« on: 08/08/2013 07:58 PM »
A couple days old; do we have a thread on this anywhere else?

http://www.spacenews.com/article/military-space/36655shelton-orders-shutdown-of-space-fence

Quote
The U.S. Air Force is shutting down a key part of its network for tracking satellites and orbital debris, possibly as soon as Oct. 1, according to an Aug. 1 memo obtained by SpaceNews.

Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, “has directed that the Air Force Space Surveillance System be closed and all sites vacated” effective Oct. 1, the memo said.

It's not the entire tracking network, but it is one of primary tracking assets. Replacement is also on hold at this time.
« Last Edit: 08/08/2013 08:19 PM by Chris Bergin »

Offline edkyle99

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #1 on: 08/08/2013 08:55 PM »
A couple days old; do we have a thread on this anywhere else?

http://www.spacenews.com/article/military-space/36655shelton-orders-shutdown-of-space-fence

Quote
The U.S. Air Force is shutting down a key part of its network for tracking satellites and orbital debris, possibly as soon as Oct. 1, according to an Aug. 1 memo obtained by SpaceNews.

Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, “has directed that the Air Force Space Surveillance System be closed and all sites vacated” effective Oct. 1, the memo said.

It's not the entire tracking network, but it is one of primary tracking assets. Replacement is also on hold at this time.
The contract to operate this thing was only $7 million or so annually.  How much will it cost to replace a satellite that is destroyed by a piece of undetected debris?

Money savings doesn't seem, to me, to be the real reason for this shutdown.  This was originally a Navy (NRL) system, developed during the early days of the Space Age but only transferred to Air Force around 2004.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 08/08/2013 08:59 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline Lurker Steve

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #2 on: 08/08/2013 09:18 PM »
This must be part of the plan to make sequestration as painful as possible.
I can't think of any other reason to shut this down while still reviewing the more expensive replacement options.

Offline arachnitect

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Offline edkyle99

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #4 on: 08/15/2013 01:54 AM »
This must be part of the plan to make sequestration as painful as possible.
I can't think of any other reason to shut this down while still reviewing the more expensive replacement options.


I still can't make any sense of this.  Shutting down a reportedly unique, critical asset to save $14 million?  Docking a destroyer for a few weeks  would save more money. 

 - Ed Kyle

Offline Patchouli

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #5 on: 08/15/2013 04:20 AM »
It seems like they're being penny wise and dollar stupid here the loss of a single satellite or space vehicle would likely be more then the cost of keeping it up and running until a replacement is operational.
It's only 14 million a year not even a drop in the bucket as for as the USAF budget goes.
Ground some drones or divert some money away from the NSA domestic spying program.
Unlike the two things above this asset is indispensable for national security.
Worst case sell the asset to a trusted private company.

This is so brain dead the people making the decisions really should just step down from their positions.
« Last Edit: 08/15/2013 04:24 AM by Patchouli »

Online kevin-rf

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #6 on: 08/15/2013 01:09 PM »
You are forgetting the political angle, many feel that the administration told everyone to make the cuts as painful as possible. The goal being to force congress to cave in ...eeer fix the budget problem.

This was never about saving money.
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Offline weedenbc

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #7 on: 08/20/2013 12:59 AM »
I'm working on an in-depth analysis of this decision. It is troubling, but given the budget constraints and the options available it was probably the "least worst" choice. There will be some impact to SSA but not what we thought it might be, and the actual impact is difficult to quantify.

Hope to have the article out early next week.
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Offline arachnitect

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #8 on: 08/20/2013 01:08 AM »
I'm working on an in-depth analysis of this decision. It is troubling, but given the budget constraints and the options available it was probably the "least worst" choice. There will be some impact to SSA but not what we thought it might be, and the actual impact is difficult to quantify.

Hope to have the article out early next week.

Hi Weedenbc, if you do write an article, please post a link to it in this thread, thank you.

I don't really know much about the other assets that will fill the gap. I think I read that lower altitudes were better covered by other systems, but that's about all I know.

Offline weedenbc

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #9 on: 08/28/2013 04:39 PM »
Here's the article I posted a couple days ago with an in-depth analysis of this decision:
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2357/1
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Offline arachnitect

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #10 on: 08/30/2013 01:30 AM »
Here's the article I posted a couple days ago with an in-depth analysis of this decision:
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2357/1

Quite an extensive writeup there, thank you.

Online kevin-rf

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #11 on: 08/30/2013 01:43 PM »
Excellent, Excellent in depth article. I was finally able to put aside the time to read it and am glad I did. So which congress critters do we write?

You sir have definitely raised the bar on theSpaceReview!
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Offline weedenbc

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #12 on: 08/30/2013 02:11 PM »
Thanks, although this is not the first time I've done something like this.  See my 2009 piece on the Iridium Cosmos collision:
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1314/1

Or my 2010 piece on the SJ-12/SJ-06F rendezvous:
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1689/1


As far as which Congress critter to write to, unfortunately that's not going to do any good in this case. The evidence suggests that this is all going on inside the Pentagon, with the higher ups delaying the new S-Band Space Fence and AFSPC killing the AFSSS. 

So it's unclear what Congress could do about this.  As I mentioned in the article, space surveillance is not a topic that elicits passion from interest groups.
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Offline Targeteer

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #13 on: 10/10/2013 08:12 PM »
http://www.peterson.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123366499

End of an era for AFSSS

by 1st Lt. Stacy Glaus
21st Space Wing Public Affairs Office

10/9/2013 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 21st Space Wing closed the Air Force Space Surveillance System due to resource constraints caused by sequestration, marking the end of its 52 years of service to the Space Situational Awareness mission, Oct. 1.

The Air Force Space Surveillance System was designed to transmit a "fence" of radar energy vertically into space to detect all objects passing through that fence. It operated from three transmitters and six receiver stations located along the 33rd parallel in the southern portion of the United States.

The three transmitter sites were located at Jordan Lake, Ala.; Lake Kickapoo, Texas; and Gila River, Ariz.

The six receivers were located at Tattnall, Ga.; Hawkinsville, Ga.; Silver Lake, Miss.; Red River, Ark.; Elephant Butte, N.M.; and San Diego, Calif.

"The AFSSS mission was a cutting edge system when it was initially developed," said Col. John Shaw, 21st Space Wing commander. "Even to this day it complemented our SSA missions throughout the world, but due to sequestration, the decision was made to reconfigure some of our other assets and deactivate the AFSSS."

The radar had three distinct processes which were performed by three different organizations. The 20th Space Control Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., oversaw the radar transmitter and receiver sites and also collected the observations. Observations from these sites were sent to the 20th SPCS, Detachment 1 at Dahlgren, Va., where the data was processed. Finally, the 614th Air and Space Operations Center, Detachment 1 at Dahlgren, analyzed the AFSSS data and distributed observations to the Joint Space Operations Center located at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

The two receiver sites at Tattnall and Silver Lake were deactivated in April of this year. The remaining sites, including the 20th SPCS, Det. 1, deactivated Oct. 1.

With the exception of the 20th SPCS, Det. 1, all sites were staffed by contract personnel from Five Rivers Services. Government crews and resources from 20 SPCS, Det. 1, have been realigned under the 614th AOC, Det. 1.

Modified operating modes at Perimeter Acquisition Radar Characterization System at Cavalier AFS, N.D., and the space surveillance radar at Eglin AFB, Fla., as well as other 21st Space Wing SSA sensors, allowed for the discontinuation of AFSSS operations while maintaining solid SSA.

While network performance studies are ongoing, initial indications show better than expected performance of the Space Surveillance Network since discontinuing operations of AFSSS, and most metrics are indicating no noticeable impact. Additionally, Air Force Space Command will see a cost savings from the AFSSS de-activation of more than $14 million per year, beginning in Fiscal Year 2014.

As part of the AFSSS closing process Shaw and Chief Master Sgt. Richard Redman, 21st Space Wing command chief, visited one of the sites before its closure.

"It was an honor to be able to go and visit the contractors working at the Elephant Butte (N.M.) site," said Shaw. "Some of these people have worked on the AFSSS their entire careers and it has served us well for the past 52 years. We were especially grateful we could go there and thank the crew for their dedication in person."

As the sun set on the final day of operations Sept. 30, AFSSS sites lowered the U.S. flag that flew over their locations one final time. The flag was folded and then presented to each site manager.

A formal ceremony, marking the closure of all sites and deactivation of 20th SPCS, Det. 1 was also held in Dahlgren, Va. The ceremony included a special guidon flag-casing ceremony, which is a military tradition used to recognize units that have deactivated or moved. The guidon was sent to the parent unit, the 20th SPCS located at Eglin AFB, Fla., for historical preservation.

"The contributions of the fence for 52 years, coupled with the dedication of the men and women who maintained and analyzed its data is a remarkable accomplishment," said Capt. Roland Rainey, commander, 614th AOC, Det. 1.

Oct. 1 meant more than just a day to take down a flag; it was also a day to celebrate the AFSSS's history.

"While we say 'farewell' to the AFSSS and its contributions to the Space Situational Awareness mission, it is equally important to remember all the operators, analysts and contractors, both military and civilian, who met the space race challenge over the years," said Rainey.

For some of those members who devoted their careers to the AFSSS mission, Oct. 1 was a bittersweet day.

Kenneth St. Clair, 20th SPCS Det. 1 site supervisor and now the 614th AOC Det. 1 supervisory information technology specialist, has worked the AFSSS mission for more than 30 years. He experienced many unit name changes throughout his tenure but the mission always stayed the same. This time, that mission will change as well.

"(The closing ceremony) signified the end of 20th SPCS, Det. 1," said St. Clair. "It's going to be different but we will keep moving on."

But not all sad news came out of these closing ceremonies. One member - or perhaps 'mascot' is a better term - seemed to create a bright spot to the closure of the AFSSS story.

His name - Grumpy.

Grumpy is a black and white stray dog that decided to call the Gila River space surveillance site home nearly four years ago. Too scared to approach the crew working at the site, Grumpy was never able to become 'friends' with the crew. The crew members still cared for and fed him, nonetheless.

As the AFSSS sites approached their closure date of Oct. 1, many people were afraid Grumpy would be left at the site, uncared for and alone. That all changed when one of the crew members was finally able to warm up to Grumpy. The member has since adopted him and Grumpy has a new home.

Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #14 on: 10/11/2013 12:58 PM »
From Brian's article:

On August 6, 2013, news broke that the commander of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), General William Shelton, had ordered the shutdown of the Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSSS) by the beginning of the new fiscal year on October 1. This article aims to shed some light on the technical, budgetary, and political considerations behind the decision to shut down the AFSSS. The loss of the AFSSS is not likely to have a significant impact on the accuracy of objects in the existing satellite catalog or the ability of the US military to track medium to large size objects in orbit.

The real impact will be the loss of the AFSSS’s ability to do uncued detection of breakups and maneuvers across a huge area of Earth orbit and act as a “trip wire” to warn about events in space. Thus, the shutdown of the AFSSS is more likely to negatively impact broad area surveillance aspect of space situational awareness (SSA) than the tracking accuracy aspect of space surveillance. [/quote]

The decision to shutdown the fence was made well before the government shutdown.  There does not seem to be any connection whatsoever with the politics of the shutdown. The choice of October first is completely understandable, since that is the end date of the fiscal year.

Many thanks to Brian for writing the first paragraph so succinctly and inclusively.
« Last Edit: 10/11/2013 12:58 PM by JohnFornaro »
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #15 on: 10/11/2013 12:59 PM »
One other thing occured to me.  The cost of certain aerospace technologies is quite affordable.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline weedenbc

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #16 on: 10/11/2013 01:13 PM »
From Brian's article:

On August 6, 2013, news broke that the commander of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), General William Shelton, had ordered the shutdown of the Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSSS) by the beginning of the new fiscal year on October 1. This article aims to shed some light on the technical, budgetary, and political considerations behind the decision to shut down the AFSSS. The loss of the AFSSS is not likely to have a significant impact on the accuracy of objects in the existing satellite catalog or the ability of the US military to track medium to large size objects in orbit.

The real impact will be the loss of the AFSSS’s ability to do uncued detection of breakups and maneuvers across a huge area of Earth orbit and act as a “trip wire” to warn about events in space. Thus, the shutdown of the AFSSS is more likely to negatively impact broad area surveillance aspect of space situational awareness (SSA) than the tracking accuracy aspect of space surveillance.

The decision to shutdown the fence was made well before the government shutdown.  There does not seem to be any connection whatsoever with the politics of the shutdown. The choice of October first is completely understandable, since that is the end date of the fiscal year.

Many thanks to Brian for writing the first paragraph so succinctly and inclusively.
[/quote]

Thanks for the kind words John. I tried pretty hard to make it as accurate as I could.

The overall government shutdown is not directly related to the decision to close the AFSSS, but it is related to the bigger issue that drove the closure. The primary factor in the decision to close the AFSSS is the mandatory cuts due to sequestration, and AFSPC's decision to implement those cuts through ending operations of the AFSSS instead of closing down other sensors. 

Furthermore, the decision to fund the new S-Band Space Fence is on hold at the Pentagon level because they don't know what's going to happen with sequestration or the budget. They are hesitant to commit the funds until they know what their long-term funding levels are going to be, which will then allow them to decide if the S-Band Space Fence is really a priority.

So the overall government shutdown does have a bit of a role because sequestration is still an unsettled issue. The FY14 budget that is at the center of the government shutdown does not include the full sequestration cuts, even though it is mandatory by law.  Even if we get some sort of agreement on the budget, AND we get some sort of agreement on the debt ceiling, we STILL need to have some sort of an agreement on sequestration.

For the time being, both the White House and Congress are choosing to treat sequestration like it doesn't exist (even though it's the law) and that is creating an immense amount of damage to the DoD budget and future planning.

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Online kevin-rf

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #17 on: 10/26/2013 02:41 PM »
New article in defense news. Sequestration has increased costs by $70 million...

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20131025/DEFREG02/310250016/Victim-Sequestration-Space-Fence-Costs-Jump

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Offline Melt Run

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #18 on: 10/26/2013 07:17 PM »
Part of the reason that the old space fence is being shut down is there is much more effective technology available. The following article briefly describes a three mirror, extreamly wide field, very fast, 3.5 meter aperture telescope that has been designed and built by MIT Lincoln Lab of Lexington MA for DARPA. It will be located in Western Australia. The sole purpose is to identify and track the thousands of pieces of space debre.
http://www.svash.com/2012/11/space-surveillance-telescope.html

Offline Melt Run

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« Last Edit: 10/26/2013 07:40 PM by Melt Run »

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