Air Force Space Control Lab Expands to Defend US Satellites
By David E. Hubler
Contributor, In Space News
The U.S. Air Force is consolidating and expanding its $12.8 million Space Control Laboratory by bringing together six different facilities at Kirtland Air Force Base, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
The new lab “will play a major role in defending the nation from attacks by other countries on U.S. satellites,” the newspaper explained.
Military.com said the 26,000-square-foot facility will include office and lab space for 65 civilian and military contractors. It will contain a specially constructed high bay lab with elevated ceilings, an overhead catwalk and more than 5,000 square feet of secure office, laboratory and meeting spaces.
Space Wars Not Wanted, but Preparation Is Necessary
“Space is now a war-fighting domain,” said Air Force Col. Eric Felt, director of the Space Vehicles Directorate at the New Mexico base. “That doesn’t mean we want war in space. We certainly don’t. It doesn’t mean we have to have war in space. [However,] If our adversaries attempt to counter us in that domain, we need to have the capabilities and the tools for our nation to counter that.”
At a groundbreaking ceremony on the base on June 6, Felt said the new facility will be a major addition to the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) advancement of “space situational awareness, command and control of space systems and the survivability of space assets.”
New Lab Facility Will Address Threats from Other Countries and ‘Space Environment’
Brian Engberg, the chief of the space control technologies branch of the lab’s Spacecraft Components Division, explained that researchers would not only address threats from other countries, but also “threats from the space environment itself.”
Those threats could include rogue satellites falling back to earth and potentially damaging asteroids striking U.S. communications satellites, the International Space Station or other critical installations in orbit.
AFRL principal technical adviser Michael Gallegos helped lead the effort that began about two decades ago to bring the facility to Kirtland. He called the new building “a state of the art facility that will equip our workforce with secure labs, secure conference space and all of the required lab support space that it needs.”
Construction of the facility is expected to be completed in December 2020.
Kirtland AFB Site of Major Groundwater Contamination Oil Spill
Kirtland AFB, just outside Albuquerque, was the site of a major groundwater contamination incident caused by a jet fuel leak.
The fuel leak — believed to have been seeping into the ground for decades — was detected in 1999, the Air Force Times reported. The greatest concern was potential contamination of drinking water wells in Albuquerque neighborhoods that border the base.
So far The Air Force has spent $125 million toward the cleanup, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Mark Correll told military.com. He said efforts to rid the groundwater of jet fuel contamination “would continue for years to come.”