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2 SOPS all-female crew gains control over GPS III SV03

July 30, 2020  - By

News from Schriever Air Force Base

On July 23, the 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2 SOPS) gained Satellite Control Authority of GPS satellite vehicle number 76 — also known as GPS III SV03 — which was launched on June 30. This handover was special: for the first time, a crew of eight women space operators took control of the satellite.

Schriever’s 2 SOPS, the providers of GPS signals to billions of users worldwide, made history July 23 when a crew of eight women space operators gained satellite control authority of satellite vehicle number 76 (SVN 76), previously known as GPS III SV03.

The crew included 1st Lt. Kelley McCaa, 2 SOPS satellite vehicle operator; 1st Lt. Alexis Thuli, 2 SOPS operations assistant flight commander; Staff Sgt. Kelly Malone, 2nd SOPS satellite systems operator and crew chief; 1st Lt. Mary McLaughlin, 2 SOPS payload system operator; 1st Lt. Mikayla Roberts, 2 SOPS mission analyst; Senior Airman Joelle Schritt, 19th SOPS mission planner; Airman 1st Class Gillian Clover, 2 SOPS satellite systems operator; and Airman 1st Class Larissa Contreras, 2 SOPS SSO.

“It’s like the grandparents hand the keys to the parent, then the parent hands the keys to us,” said McCaa. “When a new satellite is launched, we don’t have full authority of it. [Lockheed Martin] takes it over [after launch], then we bring it into our systems and then we actually gain full control of [the satellite] as a squadron.”

The 2nd Space Operations Squadron gained satellite control acceptance of satellite vehicle number 76, July 23, 2020, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. The new satellite will provide more than 5 billion users across the globe with stronger precision, navigation and timing signals. It will also bring improved capabilities to warfighters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dennis Rogers and Kathryn Calvert)

The 2nd Space Operations Squadron gained satellite control acceptance of satellite vehicle number 76, July 23, 2020, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. The new satellite will provide more than 5 billion users across the globe with stronger precision, navigation and timing signals. It will also bring improved capabilities to warfighters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dennis Rogers and Kathryn Calvert)

The new satellite will provide more than 5 billion users across the world with stronger precision, navigation and timing signals, Schriever Air Force Base said.

“With these new satellites, they have a lot of capabilities we didn’t previously have,” said McCaa. “There are certain things the new generation of satellites are capable of doing that are brand new to us, and will immediately enhance our GPS signal, helping the warfighters down-range.”

The crew included eight uniformed 2 SOPS and 19 SOPS (the Air Force Reserve component) Airmen who gained SCA of the satellite.

“We have a lot of females in the squadron, and given the crew scheduling, we had the opportunity to establish an all-female crew,” said Thuli. “We decided to have this female team on crew during the SCA, creating a more historic event for the squadron.”

Maj. Lucia White, 2 SOPS assistant director of operation, said the 45th Space Wing female meteorologists at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, who determined weather was suitable for rocket launch June 13, inspired her to bring the idea to life in 2 SOPS.

First Lt. Mikayla Roberts, 2nd Space Operations Squadron mission analyst, poses with a model satellite July 23, 2020, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. Roberts was one of eight women who worked on the historic all-female crew. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dennis Rogers and Kathryn Damon)

First Lt. Mikayla Roberts, 2nd Space Operations Squadron mission analyst, poses with a model satellite July 23, 2020, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. Roberts was one of eight women who worked on the historic all-female crew. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dennis Rogers and Kathryn Damon)

“We want to inspire future generations of young women and let them know they can have a place in the Space Force,” White said. “[The Space Force] is the place to be, especially for those who may have barriers to overcome.”

In addition to the operational crew, Brig. Gen. Traci Kuekermurphy, Mobilization Augmentee to the Space Force Director of Operations and Lt. Col. Maggie Sullivan, Space and Missile Systems Center, granted SCA approval for their respective entities making the entire transfer an all-female event.

Not only did 2 SOPS and the 45th SW have female crews, the Department of the Air Force also made history when it selected Chief Master Sgt. JoAnne Bass to serve as the 19th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. Bass is the first woman to serve in this role.

According to the National Science Foundation, women make up only 28% of employment in science and engineering career fields. Furthermore, an even smaller percentage of women serve in the Air Force, at about 21%.


Feature image: The women of the 2nd Space Operations Squadron made history as the first ever all-female space operations crew July 23, 2020, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. The crew gained satellite control acceptance of SVN-76, officially adding another satellite to the GPS III fleet. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dennis Rogers and Kathryn Calvert)

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