DSP Gala marks 40th Anniversary
By John Spann, 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 09, 2010
Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. -- Forty years ago, Nov. 6, the first Air Force Defense Support Program Satellite roared into outer space from Cape Canaveral and became the bedrock of America's Silent Sentry against missile attack.
To celebrate the milestone, 350 defense contractors, military personnel, civilians and retirees who have worked on the system over the years gathered at the Denver Marriott, Denver Technological Center, to celebrate Saturday night in a special gala commemorating the event.
Maj. Gen. Michael J. Basla, vice commander, Air Force Space Command, was the keynote speaker at the gala.
"It wasn't until I was the Director for C4 Systems, Joint Task Force Southwest Asia in Saudi Arabia that I became aware of what DSP was all about. It was you who brought warnings to us in the theater. Your team is outstanding.
"There is a rich heritage in here tonight. It is humbling to sit with you," he said.
He related that he only came into the space business 14 months ago.
" Nobody on the face of the Earth can even come close to us in space," he said. "Space brings the fight to the war fighter and DSP has been doing that here for 40 years. You are truly space professionals, supporting the folks out at the end of the line and those in our country. What you are doing at Buckley has been connecting the dots to the war fighter for over 40 years."
During the Cold War everyone feared nuclear destruction with a war between the US and the Soviet Union. The best way to prevent that was from space and the result was the DSP program. The key to the success in the program was to evolve the DSP system and the eye of detection accuracy. "What sets this program apart is the ability to meet our nation's needs," he said. "It has proven its value at the tactical level with the detection and notification of SCUD missile launches."
The next speaker at the gala was Col. Roger Teague, the ISSW commander at the Space and Missile Center in Los Angeles. The ISSW has responsibility for the DSP sustainment and bringing the next generation of satellites known as the Space Based Infrared System on line.
"This is a tribute to a team of outstanding performers. DSP continues to serve as our sentinel. You all have blazed a trail of excellence and you continue to do so.
"As the threat evolved in the cold war so did DSP through its remarkable durability. It has operated way beyond its design life and continues to deliver missile warning to our war fighters."
Mr. Gabe A. Watson, vice president, Missile Defense and Warning Programs for Northrop Grumman Aerospace, stated the company takes tremendous pride in the success of the DSP program as the prime contractor for the whole life of the program.
"One of our (DSP) satellites is old enough to drink and vote," he quipped. "We've been asked to treat each and every DSP satellite as a critical care patient and wring every bit of life out of it we can. The longevity is the hallmark of the program."
DSP satellites have exceeded their design life by four times. That delivered 188 years of additional operational life to the program. The implications of that equate to another 20 to 30 additional satellites that would have been launched to meet the need.
"Our nation is well served by this system's longevity. The Silent Sentry continues today and at this moment. DSP speaks volumes to the history of space," said Mr. Watson.
Capping off the evening included 14 toasts to the flag, the president, mission partner countries, each of the service chiefs, deployed members, spouses and families and finally to the men and women of the DSP program. A special cake in the shape of a DSP satellite also made a grand entrance through a side door after an anomaly prevented the cake from entering the ballroom as planned.
"It was a great weekend," said Lt. Col. Jennifer Jenkins, 2nd Space Warning Squadron commander and mistress of ceremonies for the event. "We received much positive feedback that the alumni of the program are very happy to see their hard work in good hands. People had a wonderful time at each of the events. The gala reminded us all of the importance of the program and seemed to be the perfect cap to a special reunion weekend."