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6 SOPS stays mission ready through rain, sleet, snow or hail

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely
  • 50th Space Wing Public Affairs

The 6th Space Operations Squadron provides meteorological data to civilian and military assets across the world and is an integral part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration operations.

Maj. Meagan Tovado, 6th SOPS assistant director of operations, said the unit is responsible for providing timely and efficient operational support to NOAA personnel, who maintain the primary operations center for the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program in the event they are unable.

DMSP is a satellite constellation that has a low Earth, retrograde polar orbit that circles the Earth roughly every 101 minutes. The satellite constellation provides meteorological and atmospheric data to government and civil agencies.

“We’re the backup operations center for the DSMP constellation,” said Maj. Cuyler Gembol, 6th SOPS flight commander of training. “We have a finite time from notification to take command.”

Being a back-up operations center means if NOAA operators lost control of the DSMP satellite constellation, the 6th SOPS would take full command and assume 24/7 operations. Additionally, Tovado said the unit maintains mission readiness through proficiency shifts by assuming control of the constellation twice a week with annual continuity of operations where they take full operational control for an extended period of time.

“To respond in a timely manner, dedicated Airmen in the unit are on a rotational on-call schedule and if anything were to happen, those Airmen are ready to report to the unit to take control of the constellation,” Tovado said.

Gembol said the primary users of information provided by the DMSP constellation are the 557th Weather Wing at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska and the Navy’s Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center at Monterey, California.

“Our data is used in forecasting across the military,” Gembol said. “You don’t go anywhere until you check the weather. Freedom of movement and air superiority rely on the weather; having accurate weather data allows tactical, operational and strategic movement. We don’t want to put our personnel and assets in harm’s way, so we focus on completing the mission in an efficient and timely matter.”

However, the data collected by NOAA and the 6th SOPS goes beyond military use. The National Weather Service, Universities and other civil agencies use the weather data the squadron provides on a daily basis. The military has operated satellite weather program since 1963 and the DSMP is the longest running satellite procurement program.

“When you study satellite systems and design and systems and see programs that originated from your program, it’s humbling to know our mission goes beyond weather,” Gembol said.  “This mission has very deep roots in satellite acquisition, development and command and control.”

The 6th SOPS is a unit under the 310th Space Wing, the only space wing in the Air Force Reserve and is located at Schriever Air Force Base. The 6th SOPS executes their daily mission “to flawlessly capture and deliver the world’s timeliest environmental intelligence data,” and remains actively committed to providing integral support to government and civil agencies.