Open main menu

The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) is a part of Air Force Space Command of the United States Air Force, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Los Angeles County, California. SMC is the Air Force's product center for the development and acquisition of space and missile systems.

Space and Missile Systems Center Air Force Space Command.png
Space and Missile Systems Center.png
Space and Missile Systems Center emblem
Active25 May 1967–present
CountryUnited States
BranchAir Force
TypeSpace systems development
and operations
Size1,125 military
1,197 civilian
2,180 contractor
Part ofAir Force Space Command
Garrison/HQLos Angeles Air Force Base,
El Segundo,
Los Angeles County, California
CommanderLt. Gen. John F. Thompson[1]
Executive DirectorMs. Joy M. White, SES

The Center was established in 1954 as the Western Development Division, tasked with the development of missile systems and especially the ICBM. It took on numerous roles during the unfolding of the Space Age.



The Space and Missile Systems Center traces its roots to the Western Development Division, activated by Brigadier General Bernard Schriever on 1 July 1954. Its original mission, the development of strategic nuclear missiles for the nation, was soon expanded to include the development, fielding, and operation of the nation's first military satellites and launch vehicles. From the first successful military space launches in the 1950s, rapid progress was made in maturing the technology and know-how to develop and operate reliable and effective systems across a broad array of mission areas. During this period, the Western Development Division underwent multiple reorganizations, until finally being designated in 1992 as the Space and Missile Systems Center.

Creation of Air Force Space CommandEdit

On 1 September 1982, Air Force Space Command was established to serve as the Air Force's operational command for military space systems. In the years that followed, the Command gradually assumed operational functions previously performed by SMC field units, including satellite operations, launch ranges (actually done by Air Force Systems Command), and satellite control networks. SMC maintained its leadership role in the development of space and missile systems in support of the new Air Force Space Command mission but remained part of Air Force Systems Command and subsequently Air Force Materiel Command.

Transformation of Military SpaceEdit

The end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s changed the focus of military space capabilities from strategic to operational and tactical applications and began an unprecedented growth in demand for military space capabilities. Operation Desert Storm demonstrated the far reaching applications and benefits of space capabilities in joint military operations. At the same time, defense budget reductions, industry consolidation, government and industry workforce reductions, and projected growth in commercial space investment led the national security space community to institute a series of acquisition reforms. Ultimately, these reforms proved to be flawed, and the community experienced a series of launch failures, serious program delays, and cost overruns in the late 1990s. All these factors led to a “perfect storm” within the space enterprise and a call to action to fix systemic problems.

Realignment of the Space and Missile Systems CenterEdit

In the early 2000s, a number of studies examined management and organization of the defense space community and space acquisition, including the organizational alignment of the Space and Missile Systems Center. In 2001, the Center was realigned under Air Force Space Command, thus bringing the developers and the operators of military space and missile systems together under one major command. Further, Program Executive Officer (PEO) authority was assigned to the Commander of SMC, consolidating most space development and acquisition responsibilities under a single “dual-hatted” Commander and PEO.

Rebirth of SMCEdit

In the first decade of the new millennium, SMC has aimed to reinvigorate its workforce and its programs to recover from the flaws of the acquisition reforms in the 1990s. SMC has led the “Back to Basics” campaign – an initiative to reestablish rigor and discipline in space systems development. With an intense focus on mission assurance, the Center has rebuilt processes, improved engineering and program management rigor, redeveloped the workforce, reinvigorated partnerships with industry, and implemented engineering and business “best practices.” As part of this initiative, SMC also implemented a “block development” acquisition approach to manage complex systems development.


Global Positioning Systems DirectorateEdit

GPS constellation

The Global Positioning Systems Directorate (GP) is a joint-service, multinational, civil/military systems directorate with more than 700 DoD/contractor personnel responsible for development, launch and sustainment of the Global Positioning System, the world's premier navigation and timing standard. The directorate is responsible for the development and procurement of over 250,000 receiver systems and the United States' nuclear detonation detection system. Annual funding is $1 billion and total program value is $32 billion.

GP manages the fleet of NAVSTAR GPS satellites as well as their associated ground control equipment and end-user technologies for the entire Global Positioning System. In addition to the recently completed GPS Block IIF series of 12 satellites produced by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems,[2] the GPS Systems Directorate recently awarded the design and production of GPS Block IIIA satellites to Lockheed Martin under the GPS modernization program.[3] Day-to-day operations of the constellation are provided by the 50th Space Wing at Schriever AFB, Colorado.[4]

GPS is a space-based dual use radio navigation system nominally consisting of a minimum of 24-satellite constellation that provides positioning, velocity and timing to military and civilian users worldwide. GPS satellites, in one of six medium earth orbits, circle the earth every 12 hours transmitting continuous ranging signals. In addition to the satellites, the system consists of a worldwide satellite control network and GPS receiver units that acquire the satellite's signals and compute navigation solutions to provide positioning, velocity and timing to the user.

GPS provides 24-hour, worldwide service, highly accurate, three-dimensional location information, precision velocity and timing services, and accessibility to an unlimited number of global military, civilian, and commercial users.

Launch Enterprise DirectorateEdit

The mission of the Launch Enterprise Directorate is "to acquire, operate and sustain affordable expendable launch and range capability providing 100 percent mission success. This capability provides assured access to space for the nation".[5] After the Challenger accident, the Air Force initiated a program to develop a mixed fleet of expendable launch systems. This program led initially to the development of the Delta II rocket.[6] The EELV program was initiated in the mid-90s as a launch system modernization program which led to the development of the Boeing Delta IV rocket and Lockheed Martin Atlas V.[7] All of these launch system programs are managed through the Launch Systems Directorate. Beginning in December 2006, Boeing and Lockheed Martin merged their launch services into the United Launch Alliance joint venture which provides Delta II, Delta IV, and Atlas V launch systems.[8]

While the primary mission of the Launch Enterprise Directorate remains the acquisition of Delta IV and Atlas V launch services, the directorate is the Air Force lead for the certification of "new entrants" into National Security Space launch services as part of a joint effort including the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.[5][9][10]

Military Satellite Communications Systems DirectorateEdit

The Military Satellite Communications Systems Directorate (MILSATCOM) is responsible for the development, acquisition, and sustainment for all space-based, global communications links for the Department of Defense and National Command Authority.[11] The Directorate currently maintains two constellations, both developed by Lockheed Martin: the Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS)[12] and the Milstar system.[13] In addition to these two existing systems, they are also responsible for the development and acquisition of four follow on systems intended to replace or augment current systems. These systems are the Wideband Global SATCOM system which will replace the DSCS system,[14] the Advanced Extremely High Frequency[15] and Enhanced Polar Satellite[16] system which will augment the Milstar system. The fourth system, the Transformational Satellite Communications System (TSAT) was meant to provide Internet-like connectivity; recently this system appears to have been canceled. Day-to-day operations of the military satellite communications systems are handled by the 50th Space Wing at Schriever AFB.[4]

Remote Sensing Systems DirectorateEdit

The mission of the Remote Sensing Systems (RS) Directorate is to develop, deploy, and sustain surveillance capabilities in support of missile warning, missile defense, battlespace awareness, technical intelligence, and environmental monitoring mission areas.

RS contributes to the Department of Defense (DoD) mission to deter war and protect the security of the U.S. by providing timely and accurate missile warning/defense information. The RS Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) family of systems are critical for protection against global and theater ballistic missile attacks against the United States, allies, and combat forces.

RS supports planning and execution of aerospace, ground, and naval operations through its family of sensors, satellites, and ground stations used to detect, track, and report space and terrestrial weather in near real time. RS leverages its diverse infrared and weather systems to enhance Combatant Commanders' warfighting options and maximize application of mission area capabilities to combat operations around the world.[clarification needed]

The RS Directorate is responsible for the OPIR family of systems and the DoD Weather System. OPIR programs include the Defense Support Program (DSP), the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS), SBIRS Follow-on, Wide Field of View (WFOV), data exploitation initiatives, and international programs. Weather system programs include the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP), Weather System Follow-on (WSF), numerous technical demonstrations, and large civil/international/commercial stakeholders and engagements.

First launched in 1970, DSP has provided early warning for Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) launches for 45 years. A total of 23 DSPs built by prime contractor Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, formerly TRW, have launched beginning with the first in 1970 and the final DSP satellite in 2007. Still operational, DSP satellites continue to serve as the backbone of the United States' ballistic missile early warning system.

As the follow-on capability to the highly successful DSP, the SBIRS program consists of multiple Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) satellites, Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) sensors riding on Host satellites, and associated worldwide deployed ground systems. In addition to Missile Warning, the SBIRS program supports the Missile Defense, Technical Intelligence, and Battlespace Awareness mission areas. Lockheed Martin (LM) Space Systems Company is the prime contractor responsible for program management, systems engineering, and spacecraft development. LM Information Systems and Global Solutions is the ground systems developer and supports systems engineering. Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems is the infrared payload subcontractor and supports systems engineering and ground mission processing development.

Initially launched in 1962, the DMSP is currently in its sixth decade of service as the sole DoD operational weather satellite system and is the longest running production satellite program to date. Initially, DMSP was highly classified, ran by the National Reconnaissance Program (NRP), in support of the CORONA program and its first reconnaissance satellites. DMSP today provides strategic and tactical weather data to aid the U.S. military in planning operations at sea, on land, and in the air. Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are the spacecraft and sensors' prime contractors for DMSP, respectively.

On 5 August 2008 Lockheed Martin announced that the first SBIRS Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) payload (HEO-1) had been handed over on-orbit to the Air Force, along with its associated ground system.[17] The HEO-2 payload was announced to be on-orbit 20 June 2008.[18]

Advanced Systems and Development DirectorateEdit

The directorate develops and implements new resilient architectures for future Space capabilities through analytical rigor, collaborative innovation, requirements analysis, concept development, and demonstrations. The directorate serves as primary provider of launch, spaceflight, hosted payloads and on-orbit operations for the DoD space research and development community. Responsible for acquiring, integrating, launching, and operating R&D spacecraft, prototype operational systems, boosters, and ballistic missiles supporting national security objectives/missile defense programs. It is located at Los Angeles AFB, California and Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.[19]

The Space Development and Test Wing was activated 1 August 2006. Prior to that, Detachment 12 of the SMSC had been activated at Kirtland AFB 29 June 2001, taking responsibility for research, developmental test and evaluation organizations that had been co-located at Kirtland AFB alongside the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles and Directed Energy Directorates.

  • Lineage
    • Detachment 2, Space and Missile Systems Center, Onizuka AS, CA
    • SMC, Test and Evaluation Directorate, Kirtland AFB, NM
    • Detachment 12, Space and Missile Systems Center, Kirtland AFB, NM (activated 29 June 2001)
    • Space Development and Test Wing, Kirtland AFB, NM (activated 1 August 2006)
    • Advanced Systems and Development Directorate, Kirtland AFB, NM[20]
  • Past Directors and Commanders
    • Craig Martin, Colonel, USAF (retired)
    • James Ford, Colonel, USAF (retired)
    • Ralph Monfort, Colonel, USAF (retired)

Space Logistics DirectorateEdit

Located at Peterson AFB, the Space Logistics Directorate has 550 people and a $500 million annual budget. It sustains and modifies worldwide USAF/DoD space systems to include terrestrial and space weather, global positioning systems, launch range control, satellite command and control, secure communications, and missiles early warning. The directorate is the focal point for logistics, maintenance, supply, sustaining engineering and the Space Logistics Readiness Center.

Range and Network DivisionEdit

The Range and Network Division (RN) delivers space systems operations training management, system modernization, sustainment development, and support 24/7/365 for launch, on-orbit anomaly resolution and operations for over 150 DoD, civil, and allied satellites. RN's mission is to modernize and sustain the Air Force Satellite Control Network (AFSCN) systems including two control nodes and nine worldwide remote tracking stations to assure responsive, effective, satellite support to Defense forces. The group provides highly reliable[citation needed] command and control to support DoD, Civil and NRO satellite launch and satellite operations in surveillance, navigation, communications, weather and ballistic missile/aeronautical testing for the warfighter. RN has units at Peterson AFB, Colorado, Patrick AFB, Florida, and Vandenberg AFB, California, as well as at seven Remote Tracking Site locations.

Home to more than 380 government, military, aerospace, and contractor personnel, RN's $10.6 billion portfolio of launch and ground systems includes the Air Force Satellite Control Network (AFSCN), Launch and Test Range System (LTRS), and the Space Training Acquisition Office (STAO). RN sustains the nation's spacelift ranges that launch 12 to 15 rockets per year and support more than 4,500 air/space tests. RN also sustains global satellite control systems that support over 150,000 contacts annually. RN is the developer and sustainer for the Standard Space Trainer (SST) and Distributed Mission Operations – Space (DMO-S) training systems and capabilities.

AFSCN: The Air Force Satellite Control Network is the primary system the Air Force uses to communicate with DoD and National satellites by providing Tracking, Telemetry, and Commanding (TT&C). The AFSCN ensures satellites are in the right orbit (tracking), in working order (telemetry), and able to receive commands necessary to perform missions (commanding). The operating architecture consists of two control nodes, eight tracking stations, 15 antennas, and two transportable vehicles. The AFSCN accomplishes this mission via a combination of seven interconnected systems and a schedule dissemination system to actively manage and de-conflict over 400 satellite contacts daily. RN's focus is to improve network security and vertically integrate weapon system tasks while maintaining performance with no additional risks at reduced operation, maintenance, and sustainment costs.

LTRS: The spacelift range is located at Vandenberg AFB (Western Range) and Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. (Eastern Range). Each range comprises 12 subsystems: command destruct communications, data handling, flight safety, optical, planning and scheduling, radar, surveillance, timing and sequencing, telemetry, and weather. RN modernizes and sustains these systems to ensure the nation's launch ranges are "go for launch" when needed. RN's focus is reducing cost by identifying and eliminating "worst actor" and other obsolete components through sustainment improvements and system upgrades.

STAO: The Space Training Acquisition Office (STAO), is the space enterprise and center lead for space systems operations and maintenance training within the AFPEO/SP portfolio. The STAO will provide guidance and assist PMs in the development, acquisition, and sustainment of training systems for space operations and maintenance, and will facilitate cross-flow training information between space programs. The STAO is responsible for program management of the Standard Space Trainer (SST) program. The SST is the AFSPC directed common training platform for all space training systems. PMs will work closely with the STAO to ensure space training systems are developed that interface with the SST architecture and that meet AFSPC/A5 training requirements. Additionally, the STAO has program management responsibility for the Distributed Mission Operations – Space (DMO-S) and Joint Space Training Federation (JSTF). The DMO-S links space training with warfighting exercises and war games. The JSTF integrates with SST and DMO-S to enable warfighting commanders to experience the capabilities and limitations of the Joint Air/Space/Cyber fighting force before actually fighting the fight.[citation needed]

Space Superiority Systems DirectorateEdit

The Space Superiority Systems Directorate (SY) is responsible for equipping the joint warfighter with unrivaled[citation needed] offensive and defensive counterspace, space situation awareness and special access capabilities required to gain, maintain and exploit space superiority. The directorate executes cradle-to-grave responsibility for weapon systems development, fielding and sustainment.

SY equips US forces with offensive and defensive counterspace and space situation awareness systems to gain, maintain, and exploit space superiority. It manages a multibillion-dollar budget with a 350-person program office, and 1,500-person industry team at multiple locations throughout the country to support operational systems worldwide. It directs the planning, development, testing, deployment, and sustainment of a complex and dynamic portfolio of space-superiority capabilities of the highest national priority.[21] "The visible sensor on the SBSS satellite will be used to provide critical information vital to the protection of US military and civilian satellites," said Lt Col Robert Erickson, squadron commander for Space Based Space Surveillance within the Space Superiority Systems Directorate.[22]


  • Constituted as the Space and Missile Systems Organization on 25 May 1967 (not organized)
Organized as the Space and Missile Systems Organization on 1 July 1967
Redesignated Space Division on 1 October 1979
Redesignated Space Systems Division on 1 July 1992
Redesignated Space and Missile Systems Center on 1 July 1992


  • Air Force Systems Command, 25 May 1967 (not organized until 1 July 1967)
  • Air Force Materiel Command, 1 July 1992
  • Air Force Space Command, 1 October 2001 – present


  • Los Angeles Air Force Station (later Los Angeles Air Force Base), 1 July 1967 – present


  1. ^ Smith, Marcia S. (22 May 2017). "Thompson New Head of Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center". Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  2. ^ Boeing. "Boeing: Integrated Defense Systems – GPS IIF/III Home".
  3. ^ Lockheed Martin (15 May 2008). "U.S. Air Force Awards Lockheed Martin Team $1.4 Billion Contract To Build GPS III Space System". Archived from the original on 26 July 2008.
  4. ^ a b US Air Force. "Fact Sheets : 50th Space Wing". SMC. Archived from the original on 21 October 2013.
  5. ^ a b USAF. "Factsheet: Launch Enterprise Directorate". Archived from the original on 1 November 2013.
  6. ^ Boeing. "Boeing: Delta Rocket History". Archived from the original on 30 December 2008.
  7. ^ "EELV Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle".
  8. ^ "Boeing and Lockheed Martin Complete United Launch Alliance Transaction". Boeing. 1 December 2006. Archived from the original on 4 September 2008.
  9. ^ Federal Business Opportunities (21 May 2013). "Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) New Entrant Certification Guide (NECG) Industry Day Announcement".
  10. ^ United States Government Accountability Office (7 February 2013). "GAO-13-317R Launch Services New Entrant Certification Guide" (PDF).
  11. ^ US Air Force. "Fact Sheets: Military Satellite Communications Directorate". SMC. Archived from the original on 27 April 2008.
  12. ^ Lockheed Martin (21 November 2006). "Lockheed Martin-Built DSCS Satellites Mark 175 Years on Orbit". Archived from the original on 25 May 2011.
  13. ^ Lockheed Martin (16 July 2007). "Lockheed Martin-Built Milstar Satellite Constellation Repositioned To Enhance Global Coverage". Archived from the original on 5 March 2008.
  14. ^ Staff Writers (13 May 2008). "Boeing's First Wideband Global SATCOM Satellite Now Operational". Space Daily.
  15. ^ Staff Writers (1 February 2006). "US Air Force Awards Lockheed Martin Contract For 3rd Advanced MilComms Sat". Space Daily.
  16. ^ Staff Writers (10 January 2007). "Boeing To Begin Second Phase of Enhanced Polar System Payload Study". Space Daily.
  17. ^ Lockheed Martin (5 August 2008). "Lockheed Martin SBIRS Team Completes On-Orbit Handover of First HEO Payload To U.S. Air Force". Archived from the original on 30 September 2008.
  18. ^ Lockheed Martin (20 June 2008). "U.S. Air Force/Lockheed Martin SBIRS Team Completes On-Orbit Checkout of Second HEO Payload". Archived from the original on 30 September 2008.
  19. ^ Fact Sheet: Advanced Systems and Development Directorate, 27 March 2015. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 April 2016. Retrieved 31 January 2016.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ "SMC stands up new Advanced Systems and Development Directorate, 24 November 2014.
  21. ^ US Air Force. "Fact Sheet – Space Superiority Systems Wing". SMC. Archived from the original on 5 December 2008.
  22. ^ Boeing (8 January 2007). "Boeing Completes Critical Design Review for Space Based Space Surveillance". Archived from the original on 11 June 2008.

  This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "".

External linksEdit