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18th Space Defense Squadron
Squadron emblem
Active1966 – 1975; 1990 – 2004; 2016 – present
Country United States
Branch United States Space Force
TypeSpace domain awareness
RoleSpace surveillance
Size115 military and civilian
Part ofSpace Delta 2
Garrison/HQVandenberg Space Force Base, California
Motto(s)Semper vigilans in sine alto
(Latin for 'Ever Vigilant in the High Frontier')
We Find (1968-1995)
  • Space Defense Operations Center (SPADOC)
  • Astrodynamic Support Workstation (ASW)
DecorationsAir Force Outstanding Unit Award
WebsiteOfficial website
Lt Col Jordan O.E. Mugg
18th Space Control Squadron emblem[note 1][1]
18th Surveillance Squadron emblem[note 2]

The 18th Space Defense Squadron (18 SDS) is a United States Space Force Space Domain Awareness unit located at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. The 18th SDS is tasked with executing command and control of the space surveillance network (SSN), maintaining the resident space object (RSO) database and managing United States Space Command's space situational awareness (SSA) sharing program to United States, foreign government, commercial, and academic entities. The squadron also conducts advanced analysis, sensor optimization, conjunction assessment, human spaceflight support, reentry/break-up assessment, and launch analysis.[2]


The mission of the 18th SDS is to provide and advance a continuous, comprehensive, and combat-relevant understanding of the space situation.[2]

The squadron processes SSN data to monitor all activity to, in, and from space, and maintains custody of all resident space objects. Primary mission functions include launch detection and tracking, conjunction assessment and collision avoidance, human spaceflight support, maneuver detection, breakup identification, and reentry assessment. These functions ultimately enhance an information advantage and enable space superiority in the defense of U.S. and allied interests. Additionally, the 18 SDS also executes U.S. Space Command’s Space Situational Awareness sharing program, which provides tracking data of resident space objects to DoD, interagency, commercial, international and academic partners to:


The 18th Space Surveillance Squadron (SPSS) was the optical portion of the United States Space Force's Space Surveillance Network. They were responsible for operating four worldwide GEODSS sites, in addition to the Transportable Optical System (TOS), and the Maui Space Surveillance Complex (MSSC). The focal point for all optical command and control was centralized at the Optical Command, Control and Communications Facility (OC3F). The 18 SPSS became part of the 1st Space Wing, Air Force Space Command, on 1 February 1990.

The unit was reassigned from the 1st Space Wing to the 73d Space Group on 15 May 1992.

The 18th SPSS relocated to Edwards Air Force Base, California in July 1995. The 73rd Space Group was inactivated in May 1995 and all units were then assigned to the 21st Space Wing. With a force-wide renaming of space units, the 18th SPSS became the 18th Space Control Squadron (18 SPCS) in February 2003. This renaming did not last long, however, since the unit was inactivated in June 2004, with all detachments falling under the 21st Operations Group.

From 2004 to 2016, the space surveillance mission was executed by other USAF organizations located at Cheyenne Mountain Space Force Station in Colorado, and within the Combined Space Operations Center in California.[2]

On 22 July 2016, the 18th Space Control Squadron was reactivated at Vandenberg Air Force Base.[3] The squadron had a mission focused on space situational awareness in support of launches, object and debris tracking, and human spaceflight.[4][5]

On 13 April 2022, the 18th Space Control Squadron was redesignated as the 18th Space Defense Squadron. [6] The change was to signify the squadron’s focus on the increasingly congested and contested space domain and their critical role in providing data and information to ensure the safety, security, and sustainability of the space environment.

List of commanders


Combatant Command

Field Command


Major Command

Numbered Air Force




Organized on 1 January 1967
Inactivated on 1 October 1975
Activated on 1 February 1990
Inactivated on 1 July 2004
Activated on 22 July 2016[1]


Equipment Operated




Explanatory Notes
  1. ^ Approved 18 July 1995
  2. ^ Approved 29 August 1968
  1. ^ a b c d Dollman, TSGDavid (25 August 2016). "Factsheet 18 Space Control Squadron (AFSPC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 10 October 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d Staff writer (November 2021). "Factsheet 18th Space Control Squadron". Peterson Space Force Base Public Affairs. Archived from the original on 11 April 2022. Retrieved 10 October 2022.
  3. ^ Staff writer (26 July 2016). "21st Space Wing stands up new space control squadron". 21st Space Wing Public Affairs. Archived from the original on 13 January 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2022.
  4. ^ "18th Space Control Squadron Mission Brief" (PDF). Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  5. ^ Staff writer, no byline (2 April 2018). "Tiangong 1: Chinese satellite falls to Earth, mostly burns up on re-entry". CBS News. Retrieved 10 October 2022.
  6. ^ Kitterman, TSG Luke (14 April 2022). "18 SPCS re-designates [sic] to 18th Space Defense Squadron". Combined Force Space Component Command Public Affairs. Retrieved 10 October 2022.
  7. ^ "18th Space Control Squadron" (PDF). USAF Unit Histories. 16 December 2010. Retrieved 10 October 2022.
  8. ^ Hoffman, A1C Dennis (10 March 2017). "6 months later: 18th SPCS all-stars continue to shine". Peterson Spacce Observer. Retrieved 10 October 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Brady, Steve (6 March 2018). "18th SPCS stands guard over space". 21st Space Wing Public Affairs. Retrieved 10 October 2022.
  10. ^ "18th Space Control Squadron changes command". DVIDS. 18 June 2019. Retrieved 10 October 2022.
  11. ^ "Change of Command: 18 SDS says farewell to Lintker, welcomes Mugg". Vandenberg Space Force Base. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  12. ^ "Fact Sheets : Det 4, 21st Operations Group". 28 September 2010. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 26 May 2009.
  13. ^ World Airpower Journal. (1992). US Air Force Air Power Directory. Aerospace Publishing: London, UK. ISBN 1-880588-01-3
  14. ^ Air Force Personnel Center Awards Search (Post-1991) Archived 2 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency