The 23rd Space Operations Squadron, Detachment 1, is a component of Delta 6,
located at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, and is physically located south, southeast
of Thule Air Base, Greenland.
The Detachment 1 mission is to provide telemetry, tracking and commanding operations to
the United States and allied government satellite programs.
Detachment 1 is the northernmost unit of seven worldwide satellite tracking stations in the
Air Force Satellite Control Network. The squadron operationally controls Detachment 1
within the AFSCN. Detachment 1 is located approximately 3.5 miles south, southeast of
Thule Air Base, Greenland.
Detachment 1 has an automated remote tracking station system that operates an antenna
46-feet-wide in diameter and a remote block change upgrade system that will operate an
antenna 42-feet-wide in diameter in May 2020.
The detachment’s extreme northern location allows contact with polar orbiting satellites
10-12 times per day. Detachment 1 provides telemetry, tracking and commanding for
communication with surveillance satellites of the highest national priority; communications,
navigation and weather satellites; and NASA missions. It also provides ground relay for
more than 190 Department of Defense and allied satellites ranging in altitude from 120
miles to 24,800 miles above the earth's surface and conducts more than 15,000 satellite
contacts per year with a 99.3 percent success rate, 24/7.
Thule AB is located on the northwest coast of Greenland, 700 miles north of the Arctic
Circle and approximately 946 miles south of the North Pole. Greenland is the largest
island on Earth with more than five-sixths of its surface covered with ice. The closest town,
Qaanaaq, pronounced [kah-nahk], is 65 miles away with a population of approximately 600.
Because of its northern location, Thule experiences constant darkness from November until
February and constant sunlight from May to August. Average winter temperatures
range from 13 to 20 degrees below zero, with 85 degrees below zero being the lowest
recorded reading. Summer temperatures normally range from 30 to 44 degrees with the
highest recorded reading being a tepid 68 degrees.
Thule AB has approximately 550 residents. Two military members and approximately
30 contractors (American and Danish) are assigned to Detachment 1. For military
personnel, an assignment to Thule AB is a 12-month unaccompanied tour.
Detachment 1, also known as Thule Tracking Station, was first designated as
Operating Location 5, 6594th Test Wing (Satellite), Air Force Systems Command,
Oct. 15, 1961. Originally a classified location, the station became operational
March 30, 1962. The tracking station grew from a single, van-mounted antenna
in 1961 to three operational antennas to support AFSCN customers. Though
the number of antennas has fluctuated, the station’s core mission remains
unchanged. Site operators have performed more than 500,000 satellite contacts
since 1961. Thule Tracking Station came under the control of the 22nd SOPS June
1, 1997. The 22nd SOPS realigned under the newly established 50th NOG May 1, 2004.
The station realigned under the 23rd SOPS Oct. 1, 2010, and designated Detachment 1.
As part of the U.S. Space Force structure change, as of July 24, 2020 23 SOPS, Det. 1
is part of Delta 6.
(Current as of January 2020)