24 May 2002.
The facility is actually the Sunnyvale Control Center where NRO birds were
controlled, and there are similar facility in Pine Gap, Australia, Iceland,
Turkey, etc. But THIS is the main facility, everything else is secondary.
Once a NRO bird was launched THIS was one of major control points and tasking
for the up-link to the bird. While the bird itself was in a low altitude
flight path, communication was bounced off a high orbit satellite (or multiple
satellites) and back to ground. The control signalling and tasking
worked the opposite way. Sunnyvale itself is a perfect place for an up-link,
but a really bad place for a down-link. You need a Top Secret SI/TK clearance
to get past the front door of the building. The NRO/USAF has run a classified
school on at the facility for over 20 years, and NASA even has an office
on site so the astronauts can receive NRO "space platform" training.
I did some research that I should have done beforehand. It all seems to point
towards the station being related to the NRO and to the control of satellites.
The installation is in fact the 21st Space Operations Squadron (21SOPS),
located not on the grounds of Moffett Field, but on those of Onizuka Air
Force Base. In fact, onizuka.af.mil is registered to "21SOPS/MA" at 1080
Lockheed Martin Way, Box 45, Sunnyvale, CA 94089. A document at
under the heading of "Satellite Control: Commercial Synergies," connects
21SOPS to satellite control and the NRO: "Range/Comm segments, 21 Satellite
Operations Squadron (SOPS), NRO Mission Control Center (MCC) operations primarily
contractor operated." I wonder what "Range" means. In case that wan't enough,
a document at
lists a "positional trainer" program for the "Distributed Communications
Controller" (DCC). The DCC, probably a satellite control system, may be the
same as the Cooperative Distributed Communications Controller (CDDC), an
"Adaptive Intelligent Agent" originally developed by Planning Research
Corporation (www.prc.com) before it was
purchased by Northrop Grumman. The systems center in charge of the training
is "SMC/CW," and the units involved include 21SOPS and NRO, as well as Remote
Ground Stations (RGS) and Satellite Operations Centers (SOCS). The web site
for SMC/CW seems to be at
which says "Satellite (and Launch) Control System Program Office."
23 May 2002
At the southeastern corner of Moffett Field, near the highway, there is a
huge satellite dish, a few smaller ones, and a windowless sky-blue
building. Pretty much everyone who lives in the area knows about this
spot. The original purpose of this installation was to control NRO
spy satellites, but I'm not sure if this is still their mission. The
huge dish has a spinning nose and, based on my conversations with some satellite
engineers about this, is used for range-finding of satellites. Everything
is controlled from the sky-blue box, which is operated by Lockheed-Martin.
National Reconnaissance Office website: