Space and astronomy news and information for the American Southwest. Coverage includes Vandenberg AFB rocket and missile launches.

AFSPC Celebrates 10 Years of MSX

By Capt. Joe Macri, Air Force Space Command Public Affairs

Reprinted from Air Force Space Command News Service, Peterson AFB, CO

2006 April 26

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - Air Force Space Command celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Midcourse Space Experiment satellite April 24 at affiliated locations around the nation.

MSX was originally a Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (now the Missile Defense Agency) experiment with a design life of four years. Command leadership realized the potential of the space surveillance capabilities inherent with the Space Based Visible sensor and assumed ownership from BMDO Oct. 2, 2000.

The organizations that participated in the celebration were those engaged in the delivery and operation of the satellite and include AFSPC, the MDA, the Applied Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins University who built the spacecraft and some of the intstuments on it, the primary sensor builder at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory and the Utah State University Space Dynamics Laboratory.

"Air Force Space Command is able to provide a direct benefit to the warfighter through the MSX system and this is a testament to the amazing team that conceived, designed, built and operates this amazing spacecraft," said Col. Joe Squatrito, chief of AFSPC's space superiority division.

The MSX is the only satellite that can "see space from space," enabling the command to track and catalog objects in space to provide U.S. Strategic Command with increased space situation awareness. The satellite has tracked more than 4,800 objects since its initial launch.

In addition to its use by AFSPC, MSX has also contributed to multiple scientific research efforts to include experiments on global change of atmospheric gases, studies of the chemistry and physics over the poles, gathering data on space contamination and debris, and looking at galaxy phenomena such as the Hale-Bopp comet and quasars.

"Under the guidance of Air Force Space Command, the MSX team has continued to keep the satellite operations a vital part of the command's space situational awareness mission, while also significantly contributing to the advancement of science," said retired Brig. Gen. Duane Deal, Director of National Security Space Programs at the Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University. "Few teams and satellites can proudly point to making critical contributions to meet both national security and scientific needs."

The exact lifespan of MSX remains unknown, but all involved in the project express a desire to see it continue operations for many years to come.

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