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Space Vehicles Directorate moving to Space Force

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Researchers set up a spacecraft for testing at KAFB inside one of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate vacuum chambers. (Courtesy of Space Vehicles Directorate)

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base is being transferred to the newly created U.S. Space Force.

Kirtland officials don’t know the full details of the decision, according to a base spokesman. But the change of command will not involve moving the unit to another location or the transfer of personnel, according to Space Force officials.

The Space Vehicles Directorate – which is involved in the development of satellites and the tracking of satellites from other countries – is among 23 units being transferred from the Air Force to the Space Force.

The Space Safety Division of the Air Force Safety Center and AFRL’s Electro Optical Division at Kirtland are also among the units, the Space Force said.

“Building the U.S. Space Force represents a top priority for the Department of the Air Force,” Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett said in a news release. “These mission transfers incorporate existing forces into the agile Space Force, which stands ready to defend American and allied interests.”

The decision was announced last week.

The space missions are expected to be transferred within the next three to six months. Military personnel assigned to the units will remain in the Air Force, some will be given the opportunity to volunteer for Space Force positions. Civilian personnel will remain Air Force employees, the Air Force said.

Col. Eric Felt is currently in command of the Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland. The directorate employs more than 800 military and civilian personnel and on-site contractors, according to AFRL.

The directorate currently operates on 438,000 square feet of laboratory and office space at the base and supports 50 laboratory and testing sites at Kirtland, as well as a high-altitude balloon program at Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo.

AFRL broke ground last summer on a 26,000-square-foot, $12.8 million Space Control Laboratory that will consolidate efforts now being conducted in six facilities on the base. The building is expected to be completed later this year.

The directorate recently built two satellites designed to work in tandem in orbit to study the Van Allen radiation belts and their effect on spacecraft orbiting the Earth. The second satellite was launched earlier this year from the International Space Station.

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