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23 June 2003. Thanks to A:

13 June 2003. Thanks to B, here's an informative site on the Naval Space Command Space Surveillance System with photos of the Lake Kickapoo antenna:

12 June 2003
Source of photos and maps: Mapquest (color) and Terraserver (monochrome).


US Naval Space Command Space Surveillance System

(Allen Thomson)

One of the lesser-known assets of the US Space Command's world-wide space surveillance system is the 217 MHz NAVSPASUR "fence" across the southern US. The following items from various sources (indicated in italics) give some basic information about the system, its history and use.




Headquartered at Dahlgren, Va., Naval Space Command began operations Oct. 1, 1983. Naval Space Command uses the medium of space and its potential to provide essential information and capabilities to shore and afloat naval forces by a variety of means:

  • Operating surveillance, navigation, communication, environmental, and information systems;
  • Advocating naval warfighting requirements in the joint arena; and
  • Advising, supporting, and assisting the naval services through training, and by developing space plans, programs, policies, concepts, and doctrine.


Naval Space Command's headquarters staff and operational element numbers approximately 350 Navy military and civilian personnel. Their component commands include the Naval Satellite Operations Center and the Fleet Surveillance Support Command.

Naval Space Command, a component of USSPACECOM, operates assigned space systems to provide surveillance and warning, and provides spacecraft telemetry and on-orbit engineering support. In addition, Naval Space Command serves as the Alternate Space Control Center [AASC] for USSPACECOM's primary centers located at Cheyenne Mountain AS.

ASCC missions include operational direction of the entire global space surveillance network (SSN) for commander in chief, USSPACECOM (USCINCSPACE). The ASCC also detects, tracks, identifies, and catalogs all man-made objects in space and provides position information on these objects to about 1,000 customers. In addition, ASCC is charged with monitoring the space environment and informing owners and operators of U.S. and allied space systems of potential threats to their assets by continuous liaison with the systems' operations centers.

The heartbeat of Naval Space Command revolves around providing space support to day-to-day operations of the Fleet and Fleet Marine Forces worldwide, whether for routine deployments, exercises, or actions in response to a crisis situation. This space support to terrestrial and naval forces can be categorized across a broad spectrum of activities that encompass communications, surveillance and indication, and warning, intelligence, navigation, and remote sensing.


A constant and vigilant surveillance of potentially hostile military threats is critical in preserving the operational effectiveness of our armed forces around the world. Naval Space Command manages two distinct surveillance efforts in support of Fleet and Fleet Marine Forces: tracking satellites in orbit and monitoring over-the-horizon threats from sea and air forces.

First, Naval Space Command operates a surveillance network of nine field stations located across the southern U.S. Three transmitter sites in the network are located at Jordan Lake, Ala., Lake Kickapoo, Texas, and Gila River, Ariz. Six receiver sites are located at Tattnall, Ga., Hawkinsville, Ga., Silver Lake, Miss., Red River, Ark., Elephant Butte, N.M., and San Diego, Calif. [See links to aerial photos below.]

These surveillance stations produce a "fence" of electromagnetic energy that can detect objects out to an effective range of 15,000 nautical miles.

Over one million satellite detections, or observations, are collected by this surveillance network each month. Data gathered is transmitted to a computer center at Naval Space Command headquarters in Dahlgren, where it is used to constantly update a data base of spacecraft orbital elements. This information is reported to Fleet and Fleet Marine Forces to alert them when particular satellites of interest are overhead. The command also maintains a catalog of all earth-orbiting satellites and supports USSPACECOM as part of the nation's worldwide Space Surveillance Network...


Naval Space Command provides space intelligence support to deployed naval forces through an initiative dubbed "Chambered Round." The Chambered Round product is a message that provides deployed naval forces with tactical assessments of hostile space capabilities and specific reactions to their operations. This knowledge assists Fleet and Fleet Marine Force tactical units in reducing their vulnerability to space reconnaissance efforts... [inactive]

Lake Kickapoo Space Surveillance Station Archer City, Texas

The Lake Kickapoo Field Station, located on 180 acres of government owned land approximately thirty miles southwest of Wichita Falls, TX in Archer County is the primary Naval Space Command transmitter. It creates a fan of energy, "the fence", that is narrow in the north-south direction and extends from coast to coast over the southern United States. The Station is aligned on a great circle path inclined to the equator at approximately 33 degrees inclination. In conjunction with eight other field stations it forms the NAVSPACECOM satellite sensor system. Two small transmitters supplement the Lake Kickapoo generated "fence" and six receiver stations collect energy reflected from satellites crossing the beam. Lake Kickapoo is the largest continuous wave (CW) transmitter in the world with an average radiated power of 766.8 KW and operates at a frequency of 216.98 MHz.

The antenna is a single two mile long linear dipole array. The Station was built in two phases that resulted in halves once known as the North Site and South Site. Each had 9 antenna bays that were aligned end to end to form the full antenna array. Now the 18 bays have central control from the original South Site and 2556 dipole elements form the total antenna array.

The operation and maintenance of the Field Station is provided under contract by Rick Montoya Services Incorporated of McLean, VA. The Station is manned solely by contract personnel with only the Center at Dahlgren, VA utilizing civil service and military personnel.

The Lake Kickapoo Station is manned during the daytime work week by a Station Manager, Technical Supervisor, Senior Technician, two Shift Technicians, a Shift Assistant, two Maintenance Mechanics, a Maintenance Assistant and a Part-time Secretary. At other times, two Electronic Technicians and one Shift Assistant are on duty at the Station.

Total annual cost to operate this station is approximately $1.8M with $800K of this being the cost of electricity.

A new phase reference system using infrared fiber optics replaced the aged RF coaxial system in May 1993. This reference system monitors and maintains phase integrity for the 2 mile long Kickapoo antenna. Recent improvements at the Kickapoo site include a system controller upgrade to be completed by mid 1996.

NAVSPACECOM fact sheet dated 23 January 1996


Transmit Frequency of 216.98 MHz

Transmitter Location
Protection Radius

Lake Kickapoo Space Surveillance Station, TX
33E32'N 098E45'W
250 km

[Links are to Terraserver aerial photos of stations.]

Jordan Lake Space Surveillance Station, AL
32E39'N 086E15'W
150 km

Gila River Space Surveillance Station, AZ
33E06'N 112E01'W
150 km

Receive Frequencies of 216.965-216.995 MHz

Receiver Location
Protection Radius

San Diego Space Surveillance Station, CA
32E34'N 116E58'W
50 km

Elephant Butte Space Surveillance Station, NM
33E26'N 106E59'W
50 km

Red River Space Surveillance Station, AR
33E19'N 093E33'W
50 km

Silver Lake Space Surveillance Station, MS
33E08'N 091E01'W
50 km

Hawkinsville Space Surveillance Station, GA
32E17'N 083E32'W
50 km

Fort Stewart Space Surveillance Station, GA
31E58'N 081E30'W
50 km

basic ecological research and predicting environmental impacts, and fixed telemetry for seismic monitoring data that is fed into the worldwide seismic network. The systems used by DOE in this band are low power and are generally located away from heavily populated areas. The DOE estimates that the reallocation cost for their telemetry systems, assuming the operations can be re-accommodated in other frequency bands is $1.5 million. DOE low-power seismic operations could be accommodated in the 162-174 MHz or 406.1-420 MHz band. The use of commercial satellite to relay seismic data will also be given consideration.


USGS photo 27 Jan 1995
USGS photo 27 Jan 1995