Buckley's mysterious "golf balls" uncovered

  • Published
  • By Airman Emily E. Amyotte
  • 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
Many people know Buckley Air Force Base as the home of missile warning. However, some may only recognize the large "golf balls" clustered across the horizon. Some say that hidden within the giant spheres are top-secret spy missions taking place or scenes you might see from a science fiction movie -- maybe even alien spacecraft.

But that's not the case. Those "golf balls" play a vital role in Buckley's mission. They are radomes that house satellite dishes and other crucial space equipment.

The purpose of the giant spheres is to protect the equipment from Colorado's always-changing weather. Without this protective shell around the satellite dishes, the Airmen could not properly complete their jobs in all weather situations and circumstances.

"Their primary purpose is to protect the antennas from weather," said Senior Airman Matthew, 460th Space Communication Squadron satellite readout station crew chief. "Before we had the radomes, we had to have a de-icer on the antenna dish so it would melt it down."

Senior Airman Ryan, 460th Space Communication Squadron radio frequency transmission journeyman, agreed that the radomes are vital to Buckley's mission because of the protection they give to the equipment.

"The radomes protect the satellite antennas from harsh weather conditions such as snow, rain and high winds," Ryan said. "Since we have some antennas on Buckley Air Force Base that have been in use since 1973 and the weather in Colorado is always changing, the radomes play a key role in our mission as maintainers and for missile guides and warning systems mission success."

The larger radomes are made up of more than 800 tiles that weigh hundreds of pounds. Each tile is made of a composite material and frame that can withstand hurricane force winds of more than 90 miles per hour.

"Not all radomes are the same or made of the same materials," Ryan said. "But they play a key role in the survivability and longevity of the antennas and mission success."

The radomes on Buckley house satellite network tracking and intelligence equipment. There are more many Team Buckley members who work directly with these giant spheres; but all of Team Buckley, the community and allies worldwide rely on what's inside to ensure global security.

The dishes inside of the radomes communicate with satellites orbiting the earth and collect data for four national security mission areas: missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence and battle space awareness.

The incoming data is then gathered and processed by the Aerospace Data Facility-Colorado and the 2nd Space Warning Squadron. This data can then be reported up to crucial agencies who need it.

These types of domes can be seen in many different locations other than Buckley. They come in varying sizes and materials, all used to shelter radars, communications systems, antennas and other equipment from harsh environments.

The radomes on Buckley Air Force Base, although not in a science fiction movie, make space communication possible. It is thanks to these "golf balls" that protect the valuable equipment within, that Buckley's mission remains a 24/7/365 operation.