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Space and Missile Systems Center

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Title: Space and Missile Systems Center  
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Subject: Global Positioning Systems Directorate, Space Development and Test Wing, Lester Lyles, 61st Air Base Group, Space warfare
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Space and Missile Systems Center

Space and Missile Systems Center
Space and Missile Systems Center emblem
Active 25 May 1967–present
Country United States
Branch Air Force
Type Space systems development
and operations
Size 1,125 military
1,197 civilian
2,180 contractor
Part of Air Force Space Command
Garrison/HQ Los Angeles AFB, California
Commander LtGen Samuel A. Greaves
Executive Director Mr. David W. Madden

The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) is a part of Air Force Space Command of the United States Air Force. SMC is the Air Force’s product center for the development and acquisition of space and missile systems. The Center was established in 1954 and has been involved in military space systems development since the earliest days of the space age.


The Space and Missile Systems Center traces its roots to the Western Development Division, activated by Brigadier General Bernard Schriever on 1 July 1954. Its original mission, the development of strategic nuclear missiles for the nation, was soon expanded to include the development, fielding, and operation of the nation’s first military satellites and launch vehicles. From the first successful military space launches in the 1950s, rapid progress was made in maturing the technology and know-how to develop and operate reliable and effective systems across a broad array of mission areas. During this period, the Western Development Division underwent multiple reorganizations, until finally being designated in 1992 as the Space and Missile Systems Center.

Creation of Air Force Space Command

On 1 September 1982, Air Force Space Command was established to serve as the Air Force’s operational command for military space systems. In the years that followed, the Command gradually assumed operational functions previously performed by SMC field units, including satellite operations, launch ranges, and satellite control networks. SMC maintained its leadership role in the development of space and missile systems in support of the new Air Force Space Command mission but remained part of Air Force Systems Command and subsequently Air Force Materiel Command.

Transformation of Military Space

The end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s changed the focus of military space capabilities from strategic to operational and tactical applications and began an unprecedented growth in demand for military space capabilities. Operation Desert Storm demonstrated the far reaching applications and benefits of space capabilities in joint military operations. At the same time, defense budget reductions, industry consolidation, government and industry workforce reductions, and projected growth in commercial space investment led the national security space community to institute a series of acquisition reforms. Ultimately, these reforms proved to be flawed, and the community experienced a series of launch failures, serious program delays, and cost overruns in the late 1990s. All these factors led to a “perfect storm” within the space enterprise and a call to action to fix systemic problems.

Realignment of the Space and Missile Systems Center

In the early 2000s, a number of studies examined management and organization of the defense space community and space acquisition, including the organizational alignment of the Space and Missile Systems Center. In 2001, the Center was realigned under Air Force Space Command, thus bringing the developers and the operators of military space and missile systems together under one major command. Further, Program Executive Officer (PEO) authority was assigned to the Commander of SMC, consolidating most space development and acquisition responsibilities under a single “dual-hatted” Commander and PEO.

Rebirth of SMC

In the first decade of the new millennium, SMC has aimed to reinvigorate its workforce and its programs to recover from the flaws of the acquisition reforms in the 1990s. SMC has led the “Back to Basics” campaign – an initiative to reestablish rigor and discipline in space systems development. With an intense focus on mission assurance, the Center has rebuilt processes, improved engineering and program management rigor, redeveloped the workforce, reinvigorated partnerships with industry, and implemented engineering and business “best practices.” As part of this initiative, SMC also implemented a “block development” acquisition approach to manage complex systems development.


Space Superiority Systems Directorate

The Space Superiority Systems Directorate equips US forces with offensive and defensive counterspace and space situation awareness systems to gain, maintain, and exploit space superiority. It directs the planning, development, testing, deployment, and sustainment of a complex and dynamic portfolio of space-superiority capabilities of the highest national priority.[1] "The visible sensor on the SBSS satellite will be used to provide critical information vital to the protection of US military and civilian satellites," said Lt Col Robert Erickson, squadron commander for Space Based Space Surveillance within the Space Superiority Systems Directorate.[2]

Global Positioning Systems Directorate

GPS constellation

The Global Positioning Systems Directorate manages the fleet of NAVSTAR GPS satellites as well as their associated ground control equipment and end-user technologies for the entire Global Positioning System. In addition to the not-yet-launched GPS Block IIF produced by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems,[3] the GPS Systems Directorate recently awarded the design and production of GPS Block IIIA satellites to Lockheed Martin under the GPS modernization program.[4] Day-to-day operations of the constellation are provided by the 50th Space Wing at Schriever AFB, Colorado.[5]

Launch Systems Directorate

The mission of the Launch Systems Directorate is "to acquire, operate and sustain affordable expendable launch and range capability providing 100 percent mission success. This capability provides assured access to space for the nation".[6] After the Challenger accident, the Air Force initiated a program to develop a mixed fleet of expendable launch systems. This program led initially to the development of the Delta II rocket.[7] The EELV program was initiated in the mid-90s as a launch system modernization program which led to the development of the Boeing Delta IV rocket and Lockheed Martin Atlas V.[8] All of these launch system programs are managed through the Launch Systems Directorate. Beginning in December 2006, Boeing and Lockheed Martin merged their launch services into the United Launch Alliance joint venture which provides Delta II, Delta IV, and Atlas V launch systems.[9]

While the primary mission of the Launch Systems Directorate remains the acquisition of Delta IV and Atlas V launch services, the directorate is the Air Force lead for the certification of "new entrants" into National Security Space launch services as part of a joint effort including the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.[6][10][11]

Military Satellite Communications Systems Directorate

The Military Satellite Communications Systems Directorate (MILSATCOM Directorate) is responsible for the development, acquisition, and sustainment for all space-based, global communications links for the Department of Defense and National Command Authority.[12] The Directorate currently maintains two constellations, both developed by Lockheed Martin: the Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS)[13] and the Milstar system.[14] In addition to these two existing systems, they are also responsible for the development and acquisition of four follow on systems intended to replace or augment current systems. These systems are the Wideband Global SATCOM system which will replace the DSCS system,[15] the Advanced Extremely High Frequency[16] and Enhanced Polar Satellite[17] system which will augment the Milstar system. The fourth system, the Transformational Satellite Communications System (TSAT) was meant to provide Internet-like connectivity; recently this system appears to have been canceled. Day-to-day operations of the military satellite communications systems are handled by the 50th Space Wing at Schriever AFB.[5]

Space-Based Infrared Systems Directorate

The mission of the Space-Based Infrared Systems Directorate is to develop and manage the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) for space-based surveillance. The SBIRS program is intended to complement and eventually replace the Defense Support Program spacecraft originally developed to provide early warning for global ICBM launches. The Space-Based Infrared Systems Directorate is responsible for the development and acquisition of the SBIRS-High spacecraft and the advanced mission control station. On 5 August 2008 Lockheed Martin announced that the first SBIRS Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) payload (HEO-1) had been handed over on-orbit to the Air Force, along with its associated ground system.[18] The HEO-2 payload was announced to be on-orbit 20 June 2008.[19]

Space Development and Test Directorate

The Space Development and Test Directorate co-located with Space Test Program for the Department of Defense and conducts research into advanced and responsive space systems.

Defense Weather Systems Directorate

The Defense Weather Systems Directorate provides the United States armed forces with weather and space environmental data for planning and executing aerospace, ground, and naval operations. The directorate develops, acquires and sustains satellites, sensors and ground systems to meet Defense needs and provides launch support, early orbit operations and spacecraft anomaly resolution for the program with the Department of Commerce gaining day-to-day operations responsibility in 1998. The successor to the DMSP system was the NPOESS program which was being jointly developed by NASA with oversight from the DoD, NOAA, and NASA. However, the NPOESS program has been split into the military DWSS and NOAA/NASA JPSS programs.

Space Logistics Directorate

The Space Logistics Directorate sustains and enhances worldwide USAF/DoD space weapon ground, user & support systems. It serves as the SMC focal point for logistics, maintenance, supply, and sustaining engineering policy and processes, and operates the Space Logistics Readiness Center. The Directorate also supports military users & AFSPC wings in assuring availability & readiness of operational systems.

Satellite Control and Network Systems Division

The Satellite Control and Network Systems Division's mission is to modernize and sustain the $1.2B Air Force Satellite Control Network (AFSCN) systems including two control nodes and nine worldwide remote tracking stations to assure responsive, effective, satellite support to Defense forces. The group provides highly reliable command and control to support DoD, Civil and NRO satellite launch and satellite operations in surveillance, navigation, communications and weather.

Missile Defense Space Systems Division

Missile Defense Systems Division's mission objectives include developing space technologies that support the Missile Defense Agency's space assets. These technologies include sensors, space qualified components, optics and algorithms. The Space Applications Center of Excellence will play a lead role in any future space initiatives undertaken by MDA and facilitate the integration of External ONIR Sensors. MDA develops and acquires national missile defense systems for defense of the U.S. while maintaining technology options for future missile defense needs.


  • Constituted as the Space and Missile Systems Organization on 25 May 1967 (not organized)
Organized on 1 July 1967
Redesignated Space Division on 1 October 1979
Redesignated Space Systems Division on 1 July 1992
Redesignated Space and Missile Systems Center on 1 July 1992


  • Air Force Systems Command, 25 May 1967 (not organized until 1 July 1967)
  • Air Force Materiel Command, 1 July 1992
  • Air Force Space Command, 1 October 2001 – present


  • Los Angeles Air Force Station (later Los Angeles Air Force Base), 1 July 1967 – present


 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "".

  1. ^ US Air Force. "Fact Sheet – Space Superiority Systems Wing". SMC. 
  2. ^ Boeing (8 January 2007). "Boeing Completes Critical Design Review for Space Based Space Surveillance". 
  3. ^ Boeing. "Boeing: Integrated Defense Systems – GPS IIF/III Home". 
  4. ^ Lockheed Martin (15 May 2008). "U.S. Air Force Awards Lockheed Martin Team $1.4 Billion Contract To Build GPS III Space System". 
  5. ^ a b US Air Force. "Fact Sheets : 50th Space Wing". SMC. 
  6. ^ a b USAF. "Factsheet: Launch Systems Directorate". 
  7. ^ Boeing. "Boeing: Delta Rocket History". 
  8. ^ "EELV Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle". 
  9. ^ "Boeing and Lockheed Martin Complete United Launch Alliance Transaction". Boeing. 1 December 2006. 
  10. ^ Federal Business Opportunities (21 May 2013). "Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) New Entrant Certification Guide (NECG) Industry Day Announcement". 
  11. ^ United States Government Accountability Office (7 February 2013). "GAO-13-317R Launch Services New Entrant Certification Guide". 
  12. ^ US Air Force. "Fact Sheets: Military Satellite Communications Directorate". SMC. 
  13. ^ Lockheed Martin (21 November 2006). "Lockheed Martin-Built DSCS Satellites Mark 175 Years on Orbit". 
  14. ^ Lockheed Martin (16 July 2007). "Lockheed Martin-Built Milstar Satellite Constellation Repositioned To Enhance Global Coverage". 
  15. ^ Staff Writers (13 May 2008). "Boeing's First Wideband Global SATCOM Satellite Now Operational". Space Daily. 
  16. ^ Staff Writers (1 February 2006). "US Air Force Awards Lockheed Martin Contract For 3rd Advanced MilComms Sat". Space Daily. 
  17. ^ Staff Writers (10 January 2007). "Boeing To Begin Second Phase of Enhanced Polar System Payload Study". Space Daily. 
  18. ^ Lockheed Martin (5 August 2008). "Lockheed Martin SBIRS Team Completes On-Orbit Handover of First HEO Payload To U.S. Air Force". 
  19. ^ Lockheed Martin (20 June 2008). "U.S. Air Force/Lockheed Martin SBIRS Team Completes On-Orbit Checkout of Second HEO Payload". 

External links

  • Los Angeles Air Force Base (Official)
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