3rd Space Operations Squadron

The 3d Space Operations Squadron is a component of Space Delta 9, headquartered at Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado.


The nation's premier space defense unit…protects and preserves vital space capabilities.


The world's best space warfighters: agile, combat-ready operators prepared for the fight today, and tomorrow.


The squadron was first activated June 10, 1941, as the 3d Photographic Squadron. During the first half of World War II, the squadron conducted airborne mapping operations of the U.S., West Indies, South America, Canada and the famous "Hump" region in Asia. On May 19, 1944, the unit was re-designated the 3d Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron and began training for aerial reconnaissance operations using highly modified B-29 Superfortress.

On October 31, 1944, a 3d PRS F-13 became the first American aircraft over Tokyo since the famed Doolittle Raid in 1942. By the end of the war, 3d PRS had flown 460 combat missions mainly over Japan.

In 1985, the initial cadre of Air Force NATO III and DSCS II satellite operators received training at Sunnyvale Air Force Station, California. These personnel relocated to Falcon AFS, Colorado, in 1987 and became Operating Location-AB, Consolidated Space Test Center. These men and women became the nucleus of what would eventually become 3d SOPS. On Aug. 2, 1988, OL-AB began 24-hour operations at Falcon AFS. By May 1989, OL-AB was conducting station-keeping maneuvers on NATO III and DSCS II satellites. On February 2, 1990, OL-AB was inactivated with the personnel and mission transferring to the newly activated 3d Satellite Control Squadron.

In November 1990, the 3d SCS was directed to relocate a DSCS II from over the Pacific to a position over the Indian Ocean in support of Operation Desert Shield. The series of relocation maneuvers was completed in December 1990, and the satellite was then configured for operational use. Combat crews saved a failing Fleet Satellite Communications spacecraft -- a Navy communications satellite -- just as Operation Desert Storm commenced, ensuring the U.S. Navy's two carrier groups had command and control of their aircraft.

On July 11, 1991, in a formal operations turnover ceremony, the squadron accepted complete operational mission transfer of all assigned satellite programs. This transfer officially established operational control of the assigned DOD communications satellites to Air Force Space Command.

On January 30, 1992, as part of a reorganization at Falcon AFB, the 3d SCS was re-designated 3 SOPS and reassigned to the 50th Operations Group.

On March 25, 1993, the first Ultra High Frequency Follow-On was launched. Unfortunately, due to an Atlas II rocket booster malfunction, the satellite was placed in the wrong orbit. During the next several weeks, 3 SOPS personnel planned and executed a series of 25 maneuvers to move the satellite to a super-synchronous orbit. The commander of AFSPC recognized 3 SOPS for their heroic efforts.

In June 1996, as part of an Air Force and Navy agreement, operations of the FLTSATCOM constellation were turned over to the Naval Satellite Operations Center at Pt. Mugu, California. In December 1996, 3 SOPS transferred control of the Milstar constellation to 4 SOPS. On December 18, 1996, 3 SOPS gained control of five operating locations located in Nebraska, Virginia, Guam, Italy and Hawaii. The operating locations were responsible for running the Air Force's Satellite Management Centers, which monitored and controlled user access to Ultra High Frequency communications satellites. As part of the same agreement that transferred Fleet Satellite Communications, the Space and Missile Systems Center's mission was also transferred to the Navy.

On July 2, 1999, as part of the same agreement that transferred FLTSATCOM to the Navy, operational control of UHF Follow-On Flights 2-9 transferred to the NSOC or NAVSOC. On February 10, 2000, after several months of on-orbit checkout, 3 SOPS conducted its last UHF F/O sortie on Flight 10.

As part of the congressionally mandated Base Realignment and Closure decision on Onizuka AFS, California, in 1996, 3 SOPS assumed the DSCS III launch mission from 5th SOPS. The last DSCS III launch took place in August 2003.

In May 2008, 3 SOPS assumed satellite control authority of the first Wideband Global SATCOM system, the DoD's newest and most robust communications satellite. Each WGS effectively provides 10 times the communications capacity of a DSCS III satellite. After the launch of a WGS vehicle on July 2015, the 3 SOPS proceeded to take command and control of this vehicle in October 2015. There were other WGS launches planned in the coming years, ultimately to transfer into 4th SOPS.

3 SOPS inactivated and merged its mission with the 4th Space Operations Squadron on June 13, 2017.

3 SOPS was reactivated on June 19, 2020, to conduct on-orbit operations in support of CDRUSSPACECOM requirements, and is executing proof of concept, TTPs, and CONOPS development to operationalize experimentation and demonstrations.

As part of the U.S. Space Force structure change, 3 SOPS became a unit of Space Delta 9 on July 24, 2020, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.

During a renaming ceremony on July 26, 2021, Schriever AFB was named Schriever Space Force Base.

(Current as of February 2024)