Air Force Space Command’s 1st Space Operations Squadron at Schriever AFB, Colo., today (June 2) will cease operations of the midcourse space experiment satellite, which provided valuable data on activities in space six years beyond its intended service life. MSX, launched in April 1996 by the then-Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (now Missile Defense Agency), housed the Space-Based Visible sensor that was the US’s first on-orbit space-surveillance asset. The Air Force used it to track objects in geosynchronous orbit once it assumed control of the satellite from the BMDO in December 1998. With the retirement of MSX, the US will face a gap in space-based space surveillance until the follow-on, more sophisticated space-based space surveillance system satellite is placed in orbit in early 2009. Meanwhile, the Air Force will rely on its network of terrestrial-based sensors to monitor space. Gen. Robert Kehler, AFSPC commander, hinted in February that SBV, together with MSX, was on its last legs and would be phased out soon. (Schriever report by SSgt. Don Branum)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.