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News | March 3, 2023

Third iteration of 18 SDS ‘Operator Exchange’ welcomes UKSpOC members

By Tech. Sgt. Luke Kitterman Combined Force Space Component Command Public Affairs

VANDNEBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. – The Space Situational Awareness Partnership and Coalition Engagement (SPACE) office within the 18th Space Defense Squadron (18 SDS), hosted two members from the U.K. Space Operations Centre (UKSpOC), Feb. 13-17, 2023, to exchange knowledge on their respective space programs and units.

As the third iteration of the program, the previous two hosting German and French space operators, the 18 SDS welcomed Royal Air Force (RAF) Flying Officer Hallchurch, space duty officer, and RAF Corporal Coulson, space analyst, who travelled from RAF High Wycombe, the location of the UKSpOC and U.K. Space Command headquarters.

“Understanding the space domain in order to protect, defend and assure access to the U.K.’s on-orbit assets or dependencies requires close collaboration with 18 SDS,” Hallchurch said. “Synchronizing our efforts with our Five Eyes allies further strengthens the UKSpOC’s ability to exploit the contested space environment.”

According to U.K.’s Defence Space Strategy, the nation is focusing heavily on strengthening relations with Five Eyes intelligence partnerships and adopting an ‘international by design’ approach.

The U.K. was the first state to publicly join the U.S. led Operation Olympic Defender – an effort to enable international sharing of space resources and the synchronization of space efforts aimed at strengthening allies abilities to deter hostile actions by rivals.

“As the space industry expands, it's crucial to acknowledge that challenges and threats transcend national borders,” said U.S. Space Force Capt. Dustin Pessatore, 18 SDS officer in charge, Space Domain Awareness Engagements. “International partnerships are no longer an option but a necessity to effectively deter hostile acts in space. Collaboration allows for resource pooling, intelligence sharing, and leveraging strengths to safeguard our shared interests and maintain the stability of the space domain.”

The exchange covered mission planning, an overview of systems, crew structure, access to the operations floor with the UKSpOC members interacting with numerous 18 SDS members of different expertise.

“Face-to-face communication fosters authentic dialogue and trust, which are essential in building a deeper understanding between partners,” explained Pessatore. “This exchange between a Five Eye partner and 18 SDS highlights the significance of collaboration. Prioritizing these immersive experiences will enable us to strengthen relationships, gain insight into each other's methods, and work more effectively towards our shared goals."

The week concluded with the two members being able to view the launching of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Starlink.

“It has been a privilege to work closely with our partners in 18 SDS this week and I am confident that our continued integration will be mutually beneficial,” Hallchursh said. “UKSpOC looks forward to deepening our working relationship with 18 SDS in the near future.”