Guardians of the High Frontier – Air Force Space Command & United States Space Surveillance Network

File:Air Force Space Command Logo.svg



Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) is a major command of the United States Air Force, with its headquarters at Peterson Air Force BaseColorado. AFSPC supports U.S. military operations worldwide through the use of many different types of satellite, launch and cyber operations. Operationally, AFSPC is under the Combatant Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command.

More than 40,000 people perform AFSPC missions at 88 locations worldwide, including military, civilians and contractors. This includes approximately 22,000 military personnel and 9,000 civilian employees, although their missions overlap.

On 1 December 2009, the intercontinental ballistic missile mission was transferred to the new Air Force Global Strike Command. AFSPC gained the cyber operations mission with the stand-up of 24th Air Force under AFSPC in August 2009.

Active 1 September 1982–present
Country United States of America
Branch Air Force
Type Major Command
Role Development and operation of military space technologies
Size 40,000
Part of U.S. Strategic Command
Garrison/HQ Peterson Air Force Base,Colorado
Nickname AFSPC
Motto Guardians of the High Frontier 
Commander Gen William L. Shelton
Vice Commander Lt Gen John E. Hyten
Executive Director Barbara Westgate
Command Chief Master Sergeant CMSgt Linus Jordan


According to AFSPC, its mission is “to provide resilient and cost-effective Space and Cyberspace capabilities for the Joint Force and the Nation.” AFSPC claims its activities make space reliable to United States warfighters (i.e. forces personnel) by assuring their access to space.

AFSPC’s primary mission areas:


During the Cold War, space operations focused on missile warning, and command and control for the National Command Authority. Missile warning and space operations were combined to form what was known as Space Command in 1982. Following the creation of United States Space Command, a Unified Combatant Command, in 1985, Space Command was renamed Air Force Space Command. In 1991, Operation Desert Storm provided emphasis for the command’s new focus on support to the warfighter. ICBM forces were merged into AFSPC in 1993 and then moved to Air Force Global Strike Command in 2009. Air Force Space Command became the lead Major Command for Air Force cyberspace operations in 2009, gaining Air Force cyber operations and combat communications units and the Air Force Network Integration Center and Air Force Spectrum Management Office (formerly known as the Air Force Frequency Management Agency). On Apr. 1, 2013, Air Force Space Command Announced that the Space Innovation and Development Center’s missions had been realigned under Headquarters, Air Force Space Command, and the Air Force Warfare Center.

List of commanders 

No. Image Name Start of Term End of Term  
1. James V Hartinger.jpg Gen. James V. Hartinger 1 September 1982 30 July 1984  
2. General Robert Herres, military portrait, 1984.JPEG Gen. Robert T. Herres 30 July 1984 1 October 1986  
3.   Maj. Gen. Maurice C. Padden 1 October 1986 29 October 1987  
4. Donald Kutyna.jpg Lt. Gen. Donald J. Kutyna 29 October 1987 29 March 1990  
5. Thomas S Moorman Jr.jpg Lt. Gen. Thomas S. Moorman Jr. 29 March 1990 23 March 1992  
6. Donald Kutyna.jpg Gen. Donald J. Kutyna 23 March 1992 30 June 1992  
7. Chuck Horner (color).jpg Gen. Charles A. Horner 30 June 1992 13 September 1994  
8. Joseph ashy.jpg Gen. Joseph W. Ashy 13 September 1994 26 August 1996  
9. Howell M Estes III.jpg Gen. Howell M. Estes III 26 August 1996 14 August 1998  
10. Richard Myers official portrait.jpg Gen. Richard B. Myers 14 August 1998 22 February 2000  
11. Ralph E Eberhart, CINCSPACE & CINCNORAD.jpg Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart 22 February 2000 19 April 2002  
12. Lance W Lord.jpg Gen. Lance W. Lord 19 April 2002 1 April 2006  
Acting Klotz fg8.jpg Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz 1 April 2006 26 June 2006  
13. Kevin P. Chilton.jpg Gen. Kevin P. Chilton 26 June 2006 3 October 2007  
Acting   Lt. Gen. Michael A. Hamel 3 October 2007 12 October 2007  
14. C. Robert Kehler 2007.jpg Gen. C. Robert Kehler 12 October 2007 5 January 2011  
15. Gen William L Shelton 2012.jpg Gen. William L. Shelton 5 January 2011 Incumbent  


Numbered Air Forces

Air Force Space Command has two active Numbered Air Forces (NAFs).

Fourteenth Air Force 

Main article: Fourteenth Air Force

The Fourteenth Air Force provides space warfighting forces to U.S. Strategic Command in its capacity as Air Forces Strategic-Space, and is located at Vandenberg AFB, California. It manages the generation and employment of space forces to support U.S. Strategic Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) operational plans and missions

Twenty-Fourth Air Force 

The Twenty-fourth Air Force, with the cyber operations mission, was activated under AFSPC in August 2009, at Lackland Air Force Base

Direct Reporting Units 

AFSPC is the major command providing space forces and trained cyber warfare forces for U.S. Strategic Command. AFSPC also supports NORAD with ballistic missile warning information, operates the Space Warfare Center to develop space applications for direct warfighter support, and is responsible for the U.S. Department of Defense‘s ICBM follow-on operational test and evaluation program.

Space and Missile Systems Center 

The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) at Los Angeles AFB, California, designs and acquires all Air Force and most Department of Defense space systems. It oversees launches, completes on-orbit checkouts, then turns systems over to user agencies. It supports the Program Executive Office for Space on the NAVSTAR Global Positioning, Defense Satellite Communications and MILSTAR systems. SMC also supports the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program and the Follow-on Early Warning System. In addition, it supports development and acquisition of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles for the Air Force Program Executive Office for Strategic Systems.

Air Force Network Integration Center 

The Air Force Network Integration Center (AFNIC), located at Scott AFB, IL, is a direct reporting unit to Air Force Space Command, and the Air Force’s premier organization for Air Force Network Integration, cyber simulation, and network standards, architecture and engineering services.

Air Force Spectrum Management Office 

The AFSMO mission is to plan, provide and preserve access to the radio frequency spectrum for the Air Force and selected Department of Defense activities in support of national policy objectives, systems development and global operations. This includes obtaining spectrum access critical for all Air Force core functions.


The AFSPC headquarters is a major unit located at Peterson AFB, Colorado. There are 6 AFSPC host bases:

AFSPC also operates several Air Force Stations for launch support and early warning missions.

Space capabilities 

Spacelift operations at the East and West Coast launch bases provide services, facilities and range safety control for the conduct of DOD, NASA and commercial launches. Through the command and control of all DOD satellites, satellite operators provide force-multiplying effects—continuous global coverage, low vulnerability and autonomous operations. Satellites provide essential in-theater secure communications, weather and navigational data for ground, air and fleet operations and threat warning. Ground-based radar and Defense Support Program satellites monitor ballistic missile launches around the world to guard against a surprise missile attack on North America. Space surveillance radars provide vital information on the location of satellites and space debris for the nation and the world.

General Shelton has said that in order to protect against attacks, Space Situational Awareness is much more important than additional hardening or armoring of satellites. 

As of 2013, Space Command is considering Space Disaggregation, which would involve replacing a few large multimission satellites with larger numbers of smaller single purpose birds.  This could be used to defend against ASATs, by increasing the number of targets that needed to be attacked.



Launch vehicles (UNCLASSIFIED)

Space situational awareness 

Ballistic missile warning radars 

In popular culture 

In the science-fiction TV series’ Stargate SG-1Stargate Atlantis, and Stargate Universe the fictional Stargate Program is managed by the U.S. military, primarily the Air Force. The Air Force Space Command patch was in those series worn by personnel at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, and onboard various fictional spaceships.


United States Space Surveillance Network


The Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System (GEODSS) facility in Southwest Asia is one of three operational sites worldwide. Specialists at the three sites track known man-made deep space objects in orbit around earth. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. John Rohrer)





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