21st Space Operations Squadron

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21st Space Operations Squadron
21st Space Operations Squadron.png
21st Space Operations Squadronemblem
Active 19??-Present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Type Combat support
Role Satellite Control C2
Size Classified
Part of USAF Squadron
Garrison/HQ Vandenberg AFB
Nickname Eye In The Sky
Motto "Gateway To The Stars"
Engagements Classified

The 21st Space Operations Squadron (21 SOPS) is a satellite control unit of the 50th Network Operations Group of the United States Air Force located at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. It formerly operated Onizuka Air Force Station.


The mission of the 21st Space Operations Squadron is to plan and conduct specialized communications for a wide spectrum of DoD, allied, civil and commercial space systems. The squadron is rich in tradition. Every space shuttle mission in history has been supported from Onizuka AFS. It schedules, allocates and configures Air Force Satellite Control Network common user resources; monitors, maintains and updates the status of AFSCN resources; and provides status, configurations and readiness of controlled resources to multiple users and command centers.[1]


The squadron supports DoD-assigned space missions by operating, maintaining and providing logistical support for the common user resources of the AFSCN. The 21st SOPS Network Operations Center at Onizuka AFS is the prime AFSCN resource for fault isolation/detection for the primary and additional operational switch replacement communication links. It monitors, maintains and updates the status of AFSCN communication resources; and provides status, configurations and readiness of controlled resources to multiple users and command centers. It also manages communications systems for network operations and maintains and operates base communications. Further, the squadron provides base support to some activities on Moffett Federal Airfield.

21st SOPS provides access to the worldwide AFSCN and specialized support to the international space community by providing network communications. The unit is also responsible for maintaining Onizuka AFS' two 60-foot (18 m) satellite communication antennas and one 33-foot (10 m) Data Link Terminal.

Its sister unit, 22nd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever AFB, schedules tracking station usage for satellite operators at Schriever AFB and other locations, which ensures users can communicate (through the tracking stations) with the satellites for which they are responsible. A standby system at Onizuka AFS mirrors the scheduling area at 22nd SOPS, providing back up for this important mission.

21st SOPS provides resources to operate and maintain the Onizuka AFS facility and to provide limited administrative and support services to base units and agencies, including security, civil engineering and safety. A small Services contingent is also maintained, including the Space Place snack bar, fitness facility, Moffett Field golf course, and support of in-home family child care.

The 21st SOPS commander was designated the installation commander for Onizuka AFS until its closure.


The birth of the nation's military presence in space was the Corona spy-satellite program. Recently declassified, this program convinced the Air Force that a dedicated unit was needed to provide satellite-tracking support for the military. In April 1959, the 6594th Test Wing was activated with its temporary headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. In 1960, land was purchased in Sunnyvale to form the Air Force Satellite Test Center. Construction on the "Blue Cube" was completed in 1968, and on January 1, 1971, the Sunnyvale facilities became Sunnyvale Air Force Station. The installation was renamed to Onizuka Air Force Station on July 24, 1986, in honor of Lt. Col. Ellison Onizuka, who lost his life in the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion.

21st SOPS rose out of this rich history. It was activated on October 1, 1991, and within one year, 21st SOPS absorbed the roles of the 2nd Satellite Tracking Group Operations Division and the 1999th Communications Squadron Operations Division. After the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Committee directed realignment of Onizuka AFS, 21st SOPS absorbed the roles of the 750th Space Group and all subordinate units and the 5th Space Operations Squadron.


  1. ^ [1] 21SOPS Mission Statement