18th Space Defense Squadron

The 18th Space Defense Squadron (18 SDS), a component of Space Delta 2, is the U.S. Space Force’s premier Space Domain Awareness squadron and provides and advances a continuous, comprehensive, and combat-relevant understanding of the space situation. The squadron is located at Vandenberg Space Force Base (SFB), California, and executes command and control of the U.S. Space Surveillance Network (SSN) – a global collection of ground and space-based sensors that track all man-made objects in Earth’s orbit. 

The squadron processes SSN data to monitor all activity to, in, and from space, and maintains custody of all resident space objects (RSOs). Primary mission functions include launch detection and tracking, space catalog administration, human spaceflight support, maneuver detection, breakup identification, reentry assessment, and comprehensive RSO database management. These functions ultimately enhance an information advantage and enable space superiority in the defense of U.S. and allied interests. Additionally, the 18 SDS also executes U.S. Space Command’s Space Situational Awareness sharing program, which provides tracking data of resident space objects to DoD, interagency, commercial, international and academic partners to: 

  • Promote peaceful and responsible use of space by tracking more than 47,000 man-made objects and sharing space data with the world via the website: www.space-track.org (Please visit www.space-track.org for the latest statistics on how many objects are being tracked by the 18 SDS.) 

  • Reduce uncertainty in space domain to minimize risk of misunderstanding and miscalculations 

The 18 SDS is located at Vandenberg SFB. The squadron also has a detachment located at Schriever SFB in Colorado, and an operating locations at Peterson SFB, also in Colorado, and on base at Vandenberg SFB. Among these three locations, the 18th Space Defense Squadron has approximately 115 military and civil service personnel permanently assigned, as well as exchange officers from Canada and the United Kingdom. The 19th Space Defense Squadron (19 SDS) at Dahlgren, Virginia, serves as a primary backup and performs many of the same mission functions as the 18 SDS team, as well as tailored space support to the Navy. 

18th Space Defense Squadron, Det. 1: is a component of Space Delta 2 (DEL 2), located at Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado, approximately 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Det. 1 provides combat focused understanding of on-orbit adversary threats within operationally relevant timelines in support of space superiority operations. 

The squadron enjoys a rich history of service. In 1966, the 18th Space Surveillance Squadron (SPSS) was activated at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and operated the BakerNunn Camera satellite tracking system until the deactivation of the squadron in 1975. The 18 SPSS was then activated in 1990 to become part of the 1st Space Wing, Peterson AFB, Colo., and manage the worldwide GEODSS detachments. Following its activation, 18 SPSS was relocated to Edwards AFB, Calif., in 1995, renamed 18th Space Control Squadron (18 SPCS) in 2003, and deactivated in 2004. From 2004 to 2016, the space surveillance mission was executed by other USAF organizations located at Cheyenne Mountain Space Force Station in Colorado, and within the CSpOC in California.  On July 22, 2016, the 18 SPCS was reactivated at Vandenberg SFB, to perform the space domain awareness mission. On April 13, 2022, the 18 SPCS was re-designated the 18 SDS to signify the squadron’s focus on the increasingly congested and contested space domain and their critical role in providing data and information to ensure the safety, security, and sustainability of the space environment. 

(Current as of January 2023)