18th Space Defense Squadron

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18th Space Defense Squadron
18th Space Defense Squadron emblem.png
Squadron emblem
Active1966 – 1975
1990 – 2004
2016 – present
Country United States
Branch United States Space Force
TypeSpace domain awareness
RoleSpace surveillance
Size115 military and civilian
Part ofSpace Delta 2
Home baseVandenberg Space Force Base, California
Motto(s)"Semper vigilans in sine alto"
(Latin for 'Ever Vigilant in the High Frontier')
  • Space Defense Operations Center (SPADOC)
  • Astrodynamic Support Workstation (ASW)
DecorationsAir Force Outstanding Unit Award
WebsiteOfficial website
Lt Col Matthew Lintker
Former 18th Space Control Squadron emblem18th Space Control Squadron.jpg

The 18th Space Defense Squadron (18 SDS) is a United States Space Force Space Domain Awareness unit located at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. The 18th SDS is tasked with executing command and control of the space surveillance network (SSN), maintaining the resident space object (RSO) database and managing United States Space Command's space situational awareness (SSA) sharing program to United States, foreign government, commercial, and academic entities. The squadron also conducts advanced analysis, sensor optimization, conjunction assessment, human spaceflight support, reentry/break-up assessment, and launch analysis.[1]


The mission of the 18th SDS is to provide and advance a continuous, comprehensive, and combat-relevant understanding of the space situation.[1]

The squadron processes SSN data to monitor all activity to, in, and from space, and maintains custody of all resident space objects. Primary mission functions include launch detection and tracking, conjunction assessment and collision avoidance, human spaceflight support, maneuver detection, breakup identification, and reentry assessment. 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 45,000 man-made objects and sharing space data with the world
  • Reduce uncertainty in space domain to minimize risk of misunderstanding and miscalculations[1]


The 18th Space Surveillance Squadron (SPSS) was the optical portion of the United States Space Force's Space Surveillance Network. They were responsible for operating four worldwide GEODSS sites, in addition to the Transportable Optical System (TOS), and the Maui Space Surveillance Complex (MSSC). The focal point for all optical command and control was centralized at the Optical Command, Control and Communications Facility (OC3F). The 18 SPSS became part of the 1st Space Wing, Air Force Space Command, on 1 February 1990.

The unit was reassigned from the 1st Space Wing to the 73d Space Group on 15 May 1992.

The 18th SPSS relocated to Edwards Air Force Base, California in July 1995. The 73rd Space Group was deactivated in May 1995 and all units were then assigned to the 21st Space Wing. With a force-wide renaming of space units, the 18th SPSS became the 18th Space Control Squadron (18 SPCS) in February 2003. This renaming did not last long, however, since the unit was deactivated in June 2004, with all detachments falling under the 21st Operations Group.

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.[1]

On 22 July 2016, the 18th Space Control Squadron was reinstated at Vandenberg Air Force Base.[2] The squadron had a mission focused on space situational awareness in support of launches, object and debris tracking, and human spaceflight.[3][4]

On 13 April 2022, the 18th Space Control Squadron was re-designated to the 18th Space Defense Squadron. [5] The change was 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.

List of commanders[edit]

  • Lt Col T. Simpson[6]
  • Lt Col Scott G. Putnam, 22 July 2016 – July 2017[7]
  • Lt Col Mia Walsh, July 2017 – 18 June 2019[8]
  • Lt Col Justin Sorice, 18 June 2019 – ~June 2021[9]
  • Lt Col Matthew Lintker, June 2021 – present


Combatant Command[edit]

Field Command[edit]


Major Command[edit]

Numbered Air Force[edit]



Previous designations[edit]

  • 18th Space Control Squadron (February 2003 – June 2004, 22 July 2016 – 13 Apr 2022)
  • 18th Space Surveillance Squadron (1 November 1966 – 1 October 1975; 1 February 1990 – 1994)


Bases stationed[edit]

Equipment Operated[edit]




  1. ^ a b c d "18th Space Control Squadron". Peterson Space Force Base. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  2. ^ "21st Space Wing stands up new space control squadron". Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  3. ^ "18th Space Control Squadron Mission Brief" (PDF). Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  4. ^ "Tiangong 1: Chinese satellite falls to Earth, mostly burns up on re-entry". cbsnews.com.
  5. ^ "18 SPCS re-designates to 18th Space Defense Squadron". Vandenberg Space Force Base. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  6. ^ "18th Space Control Squadron" (PDF). USAF Unit Histories.
  7. ^ Staff Writer (10 March 2017). "6 months later: 18th SPCS all-stars continue to shine".
  8. ^ "18th SPCS stands guard over space". Air Force Space Command (Archived).
  9. ^ "18th Space Control Squadron changes command". DVIDS.
  10. ^ "Fact Sheets : Det 4, 21st Operations Group : Det 4, 21st Operations Group". Archived from the original on 28 May 2009. Retrieved 26 May 2009.
  11. ^ Rogers, B. (2006). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. ISBN 1-85780-197-0
  12. ^ World Airpower Journal. (1992). US Air Force Air Power Directory. Aerospace Publishing: London, UK. ISBN 1-880588-01-3
  13. ^ Air Force Personnel Center Awards Search (Post-1991) Archived 2 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ AFSPC Special Order GA-58, 6 December 1999
  15. ^ AFSPC Special Order GA-62, 6 December 1999
  16. ^ AFSPC Special Order GA-09, 1 November 1997
  17. ^ AFHRA factsheet: 18th Space Control Squadron

External links[edit]