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News | July 18, 2023

18 SDS hosts Operator Exchange with French, German space operators

By 18 SDS Combined Force Space Component Command Public Affairs

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif.– The 18th Space Defense Squadron hosted space operators from the German Space Situational Awareness Centre and the Operational Center for Military Surveillance of Space Objects during an operator exchange event here July 10-14, 2023.

The four-day event, facilitated by the 18 SDS, a unit under Space Delta 2 - Space Domain Awareness, was the first-ever German-French operator exchange, bringing together five German space operators and four French space operators.

“The space domain is constantly evolving,” said Lt. Col. C. Berthillot, commander, Centre Opérationnel de Surveillance Militaire des Objets Spatiaux or Operational Center for Military Surveillance of Space Objects. “We have to share, compare, and explain how each of our nations are facing challenges in space and find ways to cooperate and combine our efforts.”

The goal of the event was to advance global Space Domain Awareness by having each participating country exchange common and best practices, share their unique mission capabilities, and explain their methodologies and underlying technologies. The event sought to strengthen international partnerships in SDA by increasing interoperability and promoting SDA and spaceflight safety through greater collaboration and information sharing.

"As the space domain is increasingly becoming more congested and contested, it is more critical than ever that we leverage our international relationships.," said Spc. 4 Ethan Mcalister, 18 SDS’s SSA sharing coordinator and lead planner for the operator exchange. "Exchanges like this one help us understand the varying perspectives and challenges that we all experience regarding SDA. The COSMOS and GSSAC teams’ active participation, threat focused mindsets, and thoughtful questions are integral in challenging ourselves to be better warfighters."

The exchange covered a variety of topics, including mission planning, an overview of mission systems, crew structure, processes and more. The week concluded with a tour of Space Launch Complex-6 and Space Launch Complex-2.

To tackle today’s challenges, the Space Force plans to deliver a clear message to potential adversaries through its alliances and partnerships that the benefits of peace and a stable, rules-based international order far outweigh the potential benefits of aggression. GSSAC will be hosting 18 SDS members in August for another operator exchange event.

“The operator exchange is a great, important and unique opportunity to interact with experts from 18 SDS and our French colleagues from COSMOS,” said GSSAC space operator Capt. Dennis Hahn. “Through the trilateral knowledge exchange, we are able to strengthen our expertise in SDA and bring new impulses to GSSAC and incorporate them into our daily operational work. In turn, the interest in our way of working expresses a certain affirmation and recognition, and sharing our experiences creates added value for the other participants as well.

We thank our American hosts for this great opportunity and all the effort they put into the broad and interesting agenda. We are very much looking forward to welcoming the exchange participants from U.S. Space Force to Germany in August.”

Building enduring advantages requires the Space Force to invest in partnerships, which 18 SDS accomplishes through deliberate and consistent engagement while providing support for its partners' modernization efforts, enabling the SDA enterprise to operate as a combined force for decades to come.

Space Delta 2 builds combat-ready forces who operationalize Space Domain Awareness to identify, characterize, and exploit opportunities and mitigate vulnerabilities in the national security space terrain.

The 18 SDS tracks more than 44,900 objects in Earth's orbit, including about 8,400 active spacecraft. It maintains the most complete satellite catalog of Earth-orbiting artificial objects on the website, which has more than 163,000 active accounts representing 205 countries. U.S. Space Command currently has SSA Sharing Agreements with 133 commercial companies, more than 30 countries, and 7 universities.