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News | Feb. 22, 2021

Space Delta 9 builds orbital warfare tradecraft from the ground up

By 2nd Lt. Remington Sawade

Space Delta 9 is the orbital warfare component of the U.S. Space Force.

Its mission is to prepare, present and project assigned and attached forces for the purpose of conducting protect and defend operations and providing national decision authorities with response options to deter and, when necessary, defeat orbital threats.

Additionally, Space Delta 9 supports Space Domain Awareness by conducting space-based battlespace characterization operations and also conducts on-orbit experimentation and technology demonstrations for the USSF.

“At the heart of it, Delta 9 exists to protect, and when necessary, defend U.S. and allied interests in space,” said Chief Master Sgt. Frederick Jaehnig, Space Delta 9 Senior Enlisted Leader.

Space Delta 9 was established and activated on July 24, 2020, as a powerful, afternoon thunderstorm raged outside. Founded after the birth of the USSF, it is an entirely new organization comprised of the 1st Space Operations Squadron, 3rd Space Operations Squadron, 750th Operations Support Squadron and Space Delta 9 Detachment 1.

The men and women of Space Delta 9 are known as Stormbringers because not only were they born in a storm – the unit activation ceremony took place during a sudden and vicious thunderstorm – they also “bring the storm” with their protect and defend mission.

Each organization within Space Delta 9 brings unique abilities to complete the mission. 1st SOPS is the USSF’s premier organization for space-based SDA assuring access to space by commanding satellites to collect and disseminate decision-quality information throughout the spectrum of conflict.

“1st SOPS provides a critical function of [orbital warfare] in that it executes characterization of threats ops to protect and defend our space capabilities. My role as a cyber-professional in a space world is to maintain all of the connections and equipment that goes between the computers that the operators use to command and control the spacecraft and the communication networks and antennas that transmit commands to the spacecraft on orbit,” said Tech Sgt. Tyler Copeland, Cyber Transport NCOIC, 1st SOPS.

Copeland and the other Space Delta 9 cyber professionals hold a unique position as cyberspace subject matter experts embedded in a space operations unit. Cyberspace is a critical component to executing Delta 9’s mission. Space operations holistically includes the space, terrestrial and link segments. Having embedded cyberspace experts is critical to ensuring 1st SOPS operators are able to command and control their spacecraft.

Copeland and the 1 SOPS Mission Assurance team ensure that the 1st SOPS ground systems and communications infrastructure that make up the terrestrial segment of space operations are properly maintained and operational to enable 1st SOPS space mission.

This integration of efforts extends beyond 1st SOPS and Space Delta 9.

“All of the space deltas are linked through combat operations. In order for these combat operations to be effective we have to work together utilizing each other’s strengths in specific mission areas to accomplish the mission,” said Jaehnig. “These missions require coordination and synchronization of efforts from our embedded intel professionals in Delta 7, our communications experts in Delta 6 and the ground-based space domain awareness teammates from Delta 2, among others.”

The importance of teamwork reaches beyond the world of space warfighters. The work of Space Delta 9 and the other deltas affects the everyday life of people across the country and the globe, according to Staff Sgt. Alex Miller, Staff Instructor 3rd SOPS staff instructor.

3rd SOPS is the other operational unit in Space Delta 9. This unit is not to be confused with the 3rd SOPS of old that once operated the Wideband Global SATCOM constellation before merging with Delta 8’s 4th SOPS a few years ago. Space Delta 9’s 3rd SOPS is the nation’s premier space defense unit that conducts on-orbit operations in support of U.S. Space Command.

“Spacecraft are critical to our economy and way of life. People would lose a lot if those were to go down. Delta 9 exists to ensure that the other Delta’s spacecraft are protected and defended so they can focus on their core mission,” said Miller.

Jaehnig knows the Space Delta 9 Guardians and Airmen fully comprehend the scope of their responsibilities.

“Now that space is a warfighting domain, we are set to protect and defend all of our assets in space, the most exciting thing for the public to know is that they have men and women here at Schriever Air Force Base ensuring that the U.S. and our allies can freely operate in the space domain,” said Jaehnig.

The members of Space Delta 9 expressed great pride in their work.

“Whenever you’re talking about supporting a unit that has such a cool mission, it’s hard not to get excited,” said Copeland. “It makes me feel really good when I go on the ops floor and watch the operators fly the space vehicles and reflect on the role my team plays in that mission’s success.”

Space Delta 9 is also looking forward to exciting organizational growth in the near future.

“The orbital warfare tradecraft did not exist before the founding of Space Delta 9 and the Delta 9 Stormbringers will shape the methods of this new kind of warfighting,” said Jaehnig. “Delta 9 members are building out the tradecraft, the organization and the U.S. Space Force service at the same time, so our trajectory is definitely on the rise.”

Miller agrees that Space Delta 9 is on track to expand.

“I think we’re going to be the front line for protecting America’s space assets. We’re going to be the guys making sure the warfighters down range stay safe. I imagine that job is only going to grow in the next decade or so,” said Miller.