The 23rd Space Operations Squadron Detachment 1 is the northernmost unit of eight worldwide satellite tracking stations in the Air Force Satellite Control Network. The 23rd Space Operations Squadron, a unit of the 50th Network Operations Group, 50th Space Wing, Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., located at New Boston Air Force Station, N.H., operationally controls Detachment 1 within the AFSCN. Detachment 1 is located approximately 3.5 miles south, southeast of Thule Air Base, Greenland.
The mission of Detachment 1 is to provide telemetry, tracking and commanding operations to the United States and allied government satellite programs.
The site'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, as well as NASA missions. It also provides ground relay for more than 150 Department of Defense and allied satellites ranging in altitude from 120 miles (200 km) to 22,400 miles (36,000 km) above the earth's surface and conducts more than 15,000 satellite contacts per year with a 99.3 percent success rate, 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Thule Air Base is located on the northwest coast of Greenland, 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle and approximately 947 miles from the North Pole. Greenland is the largest island on Earth with more than five-sixths of its surface covered with ice. The ice cap is more than 10,000 feet thick in some areas. The closest town is Qaanaaq, 60 miles away, with a population of 656. 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 Air Base has approximately 550 residents. Assigned to Detachment 1 are two military members and approximately 11 contractors (U.S. and Danish). For military personnel, duty at Detachment 1 is a 12-month unaccompanied tour.
Operation of the Thule Tracking Station was first assigned to Operating Location 5, 6594th Test Wing (Satellite), Air Force Systems Command, Oct. 15, 1961. Originally a classified location, the station was declared operational March 30, 1962. Thule Tracking Station grew from a single, van-mounted antenna in 1961 to three operational antennas performing functions for customers of the AFSCN. While the number of antennas has fluctuated over the years, TTS' core mission has remained unchanged. Since 1961, the site has performed more than 500,000 satellite contacts. On June 1, 1997, TTS came under the control of the 22nd Space Operations Squadron. On May 1, 2004, the 22 SOPS were realigned under the 50th Network Operations Group. On Oct. 1, 2010, TTS was realigned again under the 23d SOPS and designated Detachment 1.
Detachment 1 has one Automated Remote Tracking Station system operating one antenna 46 feet in diameter and one Remote Block Change upgrade system operating one antenna 42 feet in diameter.
(Updated February 2018)