Deactivation ends two decades of service on Cape Canaveral

  • Published
  • By Maj. John Buchanan
  • 2nd Space Operations Squadron
The Air Force men and women of Detachment 1, 2nd Space Operations Squadron officially handed over responsibility of the Global Positioning System (GPS) Ground Station May 1 at Cape Canaveral to Artic Slope World Services.

The transition, part of the Network and Space Operations and Maintenance (NSOM) contract, marks the end of more than 22 years of continuous, uniformed Air Force presence at the site. The mission of the unit won't change: "to provide 24-hour, operational command and control and status monitoring of the 32-satellite GPS constellation, the largest military satellite constellation in the world."

The site was remotely operated by the men and women on the 2nd Space Operations Squadron, 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., but it was Detachment 1 personnel that maintained the site equipment and facilities in order to ensure it remains operational and available to support the GPS mission whenever needed.

The current GPS ground station has a rich history that links back to the days of the early space program. First established as the International Press Site for the historic "Freedom 7" launch on Feb. 20, 1962, it was there that reporters and camera crews watched Lt. Col. John Glenn become the first American in orbit. The site served in that capacity for six years, concluding with the "Apollo 7" launch on Oct. 11, 1968. In 1981, the site was selected to be a ground station for the Global Positioning System, then still in its infancy. The equipment and facilities that would become today's GPS ground station were constructed around the pre-existing, Press Site "Office of Information" building.

The 1879th Communications Squadron assumed management of the site on Oct. 1, 1986 and one year later that responsibility passed to the 1002 Space Systems Support Squadron, 2nd Space Wing. In December 1989, when the site's role was expanded to include compatibility testing and pre-launch checkout of all new GPS satellites, it was redesignated as a Detachment. On Jan. 30, 1992, the site was officially designated as Detachment 1, 2nd Space Operations Squadron, of the simultaneously created 50th Space Wing. With the events surrounding 911 and the Global War on Terrorism, in addition to the sky rocketing demand for GPS services worldwide, the detachment's mission focus shifted from being primarily a test and development station to a key operational asset, providing real-time satellite command and control.

The remaining ten Air Force members of Detachment 1 will be moving on to other areas of service and while there is a bit of sadness brought on by the end of the "blue-suiter" era, they understand that transformation is part of the Air Force's evolution and is necessary to ensure we remain the preeminent and most dominating Air Force in the world.