HomeNewsArticle Display

Buckley's DSP system celebrates 40th anniversary


Tomorrow the 460th Space Wing at Buckley Air Force Base will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first launch of the Defense Support Program (DSP) satellite.

BUCKLEY AFB, Colo. -- Tomorrow the 460th Space Wing at Buckley Air Force Base will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first launch of the Defense Support Program (DSP) satellite. It was the beginnings of a satellite constellation that has been providing space-based infrared missile warning to our nation's leaders for four decades.
  On, Nov. 6, 1970 the launch of the maiden DSP spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Fla. was accomplished.

During the last several decades, a dedicated team of scientists, engineers, acquisition specialists, civilian contractors and space professionals has ensured that the DSP system performed better than advertised and lasted much longer than designed. Evidence of the spacecrafts' tenacity is shown by the fact that one of the satellites currently on-orbit has exceeded its design life more than four times over. The DSP story is one of technological innovation and dedicated professionalism.

"The Defense Support Program is in really good shape," said Col. Chance Saltzman, 460th Operations Group commander. "We have no desire to take any of those systems offline as the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) comes into being. Despite exceeding their designed lifespan four times over, DSP satellites will soldier on, operating alongside their successors."

From the first launch 40 years ago until today, the venerable satellite has stared down on the Earth from its geosynchronous orbit tens of thousands of miles above our planet's surface. Designed to detect the infra-red radiation emanating from Soviet missile launches, the constellation of spacecraft was designed and built by aerospace contractors TRW and Aerojet Corporation.

Later, in 2001 and 2002, Aerojet and TRW became part of part of Northrop Grumman Corporation and today, Northrop Grumman continues to sustain the on-orbit spacecraft through its facilities in Redondo Beach and Azuza, Calif. and at Buckley AFB.

The spacecraft is elegant in its simplicity, yet contains many complex subsystems and redundancies. As the years progressed and the need to establish and maintain a more sensitive and reliable space-based warning system increased, the DSP team upgraded and enhanced the satellite, producing four distinct design blocks.

"We continue to look subsystem by subsystem and satellite by satellite to see if there are any tactics we can employ to wring the most out of those satellites," said Colonel Saltzman.

Over the course of the last four decades, 23 DSP satellites were placed into orbit, allowing Air Force Space Command and its predecessor organizations to accomplish the demanding mission of constantly monitoring the globe for signs of an enemy missile attack.
Even more important than the impressive military hardware are the dedicated men and women who have labored tirelessly, often behind veils of official secrecy, to develop and operate the Defense Support Program. The program stands as a shining example of how professional integration - at all levels - can bring about amazing results.

"I've seen some of DSP's history here at Buckley myself," stated Lt. Col. Jennifer Jenkins, 2nd Space Warning Squadron commander and DSP devotee. "I was first assigned here as a lieutenant and now am back as the commander. I've seen a lot of changes in 16 years. But what hasn't changed is the amazing contribution that DSP continues to make to our nation's defense. It's very exciting to be involved in the day-to-day operations and to be working with this incredible group of professionals made up of active duty, guard, reserve and civilian Air Force members, our partner nations and our great contractor corps. We're well suited to keep DSP going well into the next generation of missile warning, the Space-Based Infrared System."

Using an industry team of contractors from Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and the Aerospace Corporation, the private sector provides the critical expertise to keep the Air Force's space pros adequately supported, ensuring that the mission gets done.
Not only do the space professionals who man the consoles in the 460th Space Wing's Space Operations Center represent the active duty and reserve components of the United States Air Force, but foreign mission partners from Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom play an active role as well. Operating a global network of ground stations and communications networks, the DSP family is truly a global one.

To recognize these impressive accomplishments, the 460th Space Wing and the Air Force Association are hosting a series of events during the weekend. The Wing will open up the doors of the Mission Control Station, here at Buckley Air Force Base, to those men and women who have worked so hard over the years to get the program to where it is today. In addition to the tours, the Wing will play host to a social event where coworkers from years gone by can reconnect and reestablish personal and professional ties. Capping the weekend in grand style, a formal gala, organized by the Mile High Chapter of the Air Force Association, is to take place at the Denver Tech Center Marriott Hotel, where current and former Air Force leaders will mingle with program legends and the Airmen who execute the mission today.

So, to the men and women of the Defense Support Program, congratulations on achieving such a monumental and meaningful milestone!
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.