3rd Space Ops To Retire Lockheed Martin-Built Satellite After 21 Years Of Service

An artist's depiction of a Defense Satellite Communications System satellite on orbit is shown. Image Credit: U.S. Air Force

An artist’s depiction of a Defense Satellite Communications System satellite on orbit is shown. Image Credit: U.S. Air Force

June 26, 2015 – June 26, 2015 – The 3rd Space Operations Squadron will retire its oldest satellite currently in orbit later this month at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. The Defense Satellite Communications System satellite, known as B-10, is a 21-year-old wideband satellite built by Lockheed Martin.

Launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on November 28, 1993, DSCS B-10 was designed to provide wideband military communications to U.S. Strategic Command users. Though it was built with 1980s technology, B-10 has provided critical communications service to warfighters throughout various worldwide conflicts that occurred during the past two decades. The satellite, which has exceeded its design life by more than a decade, has provided service to more than 241,000 users and support to all nine combatant commands.

Following the launch, the satellite was positioned over the Indian Ocean and served in the active DSCS constellation for more than 18 years, before transitioning to a test asset in 2012.

“We try to maximize their utility,” said Lt. Col. Chris Todd, 3 SOPS commander. “It’s like your car; you want to get the most out of it before it no longer runs.”

Most test assets perform their duties from a super-synchronized orbit at least 314 km above the geostationary belt. Instead, B-10 has occupied a slot in geosynchronous orbit above the United States. This stable position allowed the B-10 to be used to test software patch updates to DSCS communications payloads before implementing them on operational assets.

Now low on fuel, it’s time to super-sync the B-10 satellite, which requires a sequence of burns with its thrusters to push it out of orbit.

“Once B-10 is super-synced we will go through actions to deplete the fuel and turn off all components,” said Todd.

3 SOPS has many other wideband satellites in orbit to continue providing support to its hundreds of thousands of customers. And with the decommissioning of old satellites it makes room for new ones.

“Launching new satellites gives us new capabilities with new technology,” added Todd.