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Event marks selection of Grand Forks Air Force Base as SDA's Ground Operations and Integration Center

The National Defense Space Architecture provides high-speed tactical data transport and supports the Department of Defense’s move to a multi-orbit missile warning, tracking and defense architecture.

SDA Ribbon Cutting.jpg
Rep. Kelly Armstrong, Sen. John Hoeven, SDA director Dr. Derek Tornier, Vice Commander of the 319th Reconnaissance Col. Jeremy Fields and Sen. Kevin Cramer participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Operations and Integration Center for Tranche 1 of the National Defense Space Architecture at Grand Forks Air Force Base on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.
Jacob Holley / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE — Sen. Kevin Cramer, Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Kelly Armstrong spoke Tuesday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Grand Forks Air Force Base, celebrating what is being hailed as a transformational new mission for the local base.

The celebration marked GFAFB's selection as the new home of the Space Development Agency's first Operations and Integration Center for Tranche 1 of the National Defense Space Architecture. Afterward, the congressional delegates — all three of whom are Republicans from North Dakota — and others held a community meeting at Minnkota Power Cooperative.

The National Defense Space Architecture provides high-speed tactical data transport and supports the Department of Defense’s move to a multi-orbit missile warning, tracking and defense architecture.

The ribbon-cutting event comes in the wake of the announcement of a $325 million contract for the establishment of the ground operations and integration segment of Tranche 1 (T1) of the National Defense Space Architecture to General Dynamics Mission Systems, as well as other partners, including Iridium and Raytheon.

The Initial Warfighting Tranche of the NDSA’s efforts under the award include design, development, integration, verification and delivery of mission operations and support activities for the Space Development Agency's low-Earth-orbit satellite mission.

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Hoeven spoke first at Tuesday's ceremony, calling it “truly transformational.”

"The low-Earth-orbit satellite mission and the Sky Range hypersonic missile testing program are two more strong examples of the partnerships we’ve established to secure Grand Forks’ role in the future of our nation’s defense," Hoeven said. "These new operations greatly complement Grand Forks Air Force Base's leadership in the Air Force’s (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) efforts, as well as the dynamic, world-class UAS industry we’ve built in the Red River Valley.”

Cramer followed by speaking highly of the community’s efforts.

“Grand Forks, you are on the cutting edge of things that most people aren't going to understand or know about, but will be grateful for,” he said. “Bad things are not going to happen because of the good things that are happening here, and that's something that as a community I would take great pride in.”

Senator John Hoeven Air Force Base 6:28:2022.jpg
North Dakota Senator John Hoeven speaking at the ribbon cutting for the Operations and Integration Center for Tranche 1 of the National Defense Space Architecture.
Jacob Holley

Dr. Derek Tournear, director of the Space Development Agency, then took to the podium to explain why Grand Forks Air Force Base was chosen for the placement of the Operations and Integration Center, as well as why he thinks the SDA's work will be important.

“When we talk about space a lot, we forget that the only reason we go to space is to provide capabilities for the men and women that are actually going to be in the fight on the ground, at sea and in the sky,” Tournear said. “Space doesn't matter for anything other than that. If you're not providing for those warfighters, you're just flying experiments.”

At the public meeting after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, UND President Andrew Armacost spoke about the university's relationship with Grand Forks Air Force Base, as well as his thoughts on the new partnership. He also spoke about his wonderment at the work being done to launch the satellites that make much of the SDA’s work possible.

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“There's nothing more humbling than looking up and saying, ‘We have the technology to fly all these satellites,’” Armacost said. “And you can see the bigger ones fly over. … But your imagination will get going, and what we're building here is a way to create an advanced system of those satellites that will communicate with each other, that will communicate down to Earth, that will take images (and) will do all these magical things that will keep us safe, and you can see that just by looking up. You can let your imagination go through all that it must take to be able to do that.”

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According to a release from Grand Forks Air Force Base, "the T1 ground segment includes two operations centers, located at SDA-provided facilities in Grand Forks Air Force Base (Northern Tier) and Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Ala. (Southern Tier), will enable SDA’s Tranche 1 Transport Layer operations. The two operations centers will provide mission assurance, mutual backup capability, and distribution of mission." The release noted that SDA sites were chosen intentionally, "to be not only separate from other space operations activities but to align directly with the warfighter or end user."

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Jacob Holley joined the Grand Forks Herald as its business reporter in June 2021.

Holley's beat at the Grand Forks Herald is broad and includes a variety of topics, including small business, national trends and more.

Readers can reach Holley at jholley@gfherald.com.Follow him on Twitter @JakeHolleyMedia.
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