SMC stands up new Space Safari program office

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  • Space and Missile Systems Center Public Affairs

Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, Commander, Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), recently announced the establishment of the Space Safari Program Office within SMC’s Special Programs Directorate.  Space Safari responds to high-priority, urgent space needs by rapidly acquiring, integrating and executing missions in support of USSPACECOM requirements and other combatant commander needs. These missions are not typically a part of an enduring program of record, but respond to high priority needs to deploy space systems quickly to respond to emerging threats.  

As a high-speed integrator for specialized space missions, Space Safari operates with a unique mission focus, rapidly connecting space vehicles, specialized payloads, launch campaigns and ground systems, all while coordinating with the operational community and end-users.  Similar to the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center's Big Safari office, Space Safari uses mature technology and existing production lines to quickly repurpose and integrate space assets from multiple organizations.

“Space Safari’s initial mission is to plan, acquire and deliver a specialized space capability with the ability to integrate and launch within just weeks of a ‘Go!’ order,” said Col. Dennis Bythewood, Director of Special Programs. “Where most space vehicles take years to deliver, and launches are similarly planned years in advance, this ability to quickly integrate and launch will result in greatly enhanced capabilities for America’s Space Force.” This unique mission is set to launch in June 2021 and future efforts are in the works for 2022 and 2023.

Space Safari, under the leadership of Lt. Col. MacKenzie Birchenough, is teaming with multiple mission partners including SMC’s Launch Enterprise Directorate, the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, the operational space community and numerous other Government and industry partners. “While Space Safari is still a fairly new organization, we have already established great partnerships throughout the community. We’ll continue to broaden our outreach to ensure we can provide the best capabilities to the warfighter on much shorter timelines,” said Birchenough.  “The Space Safari team intends to push the envelope when it comes to the U.S. Space Force’s ability to rapidly plan and conduct all aspects of future space missions.”

The U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, located at the Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, is the center of excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. SMC’s portfolio includes space launch, global positioning systems, military satellite communications, a meteorological satellite control network, range systems, space-based infrared systems and space domain awareness capabilities.


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