HomeAbout UsFact SheetsDisplay

21st Space Operations Squadron

21st Space Operations Squadron

21st Space Operations Squadron

The command element for the 21st Space Operations Squadron is located at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California within the Ellison
 Onizuka Satellite Operations Facility.  With two separate locations at Vandenberg AFB, four Geographically Separated Units and one 
remote operating location (OL-A) bridging the international dateline, the 21SOPS is the first U.S. Space Force squadron to greet each 
day and last to bid it farewell.  21 SOPS is a unit of the 50th Network Operations Group, 50th Space Wing, Schriever AFB, Colorado 
and is hosted as a tenant organization of the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg AFB. The squadron executes multiple missions to 
provide and enable assured access to the space domain, continuing the legacy of Col. Ellison Onizuka, an Air Force astronaut 
aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger that exploded shortly after lift-off Jan. 28, 1986.  In addition to the EOSOF and its five worldwide 
locations, the squadron also manages and operates the Vandenberg Tracking Station which is approximately 10 miles 
northeast of Vandenberg AFB. 

Mission
Provide and enable assured access to space-based systems.

Operations
The 21 SOPS conducts Air Force Satellite Control Network operations, launch support as augmentation to the Western Range, 
manages Global Positioning System ground infrastructure, provides AFSCN communications segment monitoring, delivers satellite 
communications in support of the AFSCN and a small group of other users and is the lead for 24/7 AFSCN cyber vulnerability 
management scanning and risk mitigation.  21 SOPS operates GSUs at Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory (Det. 1, 
call-sign REEF), Guam’s northwest field (De.t 2, call-sign GUAM) and Kaena Point Hawaii (Det. 3, call-sign HULA).  21 SOPS has 
an operating location on Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands, which provides maintenance for a GPS ground antenna 
and monitoring station. A GPS GA and MS are also co-located with Det. 1 in Diego Garcia and an MS is co-located with Det. 3 at 
Kaena Point. 21 SOPS performs mission from two locations on or near Vandenberg AFB.  The VTS (call-sign COOK) provides 
AFSCN remote tracking and Western Range launch infrastructure augmentation.  The EOSOF houses the squadron’s command 
section supports one of the two AFSCN operational control nodes, two modernized earth satellite communication terminals and 
the AFSCN Communications Control Center.  21 SOPS maintains the back-up scheduling Network Operation Center for 22 
SOPSand back-up satellite operations facilities for 2, and 4 SOPS at Vandenberg AFB.  Additionally, 21 SOPS hosts the 148 
SOPS (California Air National Guard) as a tenant at the COOK tracking station.

History
The birth of the National Security Space Enterprise was the Corona photo intelligence gathering satellite program. This program 
convinced the Air Force a dedicated unit was needed to provide satellite tracking. In April 1959, the 6594th Test Wing was 
activated with temporary headquarters in Palo Alto, California. In 1960, land was purchased in Sunnyvale, California and the 
6594th Test Wing relocated to form the Air Force Satellite Test Center. Construction on the "Blue Cube" was completed in 1968, 
and on Jan. 1, 1971, the Sunnyvale facilities became Sunnyvale Air Force Station. The installation was renamed Onizuka Air 
Force Station on July 24, 1986, in honor of Col. Ellison Onizuka, who lost his life in the Space Shuttle Challenger accident.

The 21 SOPS rose out of this rich history. The squadron was activated on Oct. 1, 1991. After the 1995 Base Realignment and 
Closure committee directed realignment of Onizuka AFS, 21 SOPS absorbed the roles of the 750th Space Group and all 
subordinate units, to include the 5 SOPS. In 2005, the BRAC committee directed Onizuka AFS to close not later than Sept. 
15, 2011. On July 29, 2010, the squadron relocated to Vandenberg AFB, gaining Detachment 1, VTS, from the 22 SOPS. 
On Oct. 1, 2010, the 50th NOG reorganized and the squadron gained Diego Garcia Tracking Station, BIOT; Guam Tracking 
Station, northwest field, Guam; and Hawaii Tracking Station, Kaena Point, Hawaii.

On Aug. 1, 2011, the GPS GA and MS were transitioned from the 2 SOPS (of the 50th Operations Group) to 21 and 23 SOPS 
(of the 50th NOG).  As a result, 21 SOPS absorbed operations and maintenance responsibilities for GPS sites on 
Kwajalein Atoll, Diego Garcia and Hawaii.

In April, 2015, 21 SOPS launched a cyber-defense pilot program resulting in the creation of dedicated AFSCN cyber protection 
forces and protocols.  21 SOPS inherited the role of 24/7 AFSCN network scanning to detect and report irregular network traffic 
for assessment and remediation. 

(Current as of December 2019)