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News | May 9, 2022

NY Airmen discuss space operations with Brazilian counterparts

By Eric Durr, New York National Guard

BRASILIA, Brazil -- Three New York Air National Guard Airmen spent April 18-25 sharing their knowledge of space operations and their organization with Brazilian airmen assigned to that country’s Aerospace Operations Command.

The visit by the New York Airmen, assigned to the 222nd Command and Control Squadron, was the latest exchange under the State Partnership Program agreement the New York National Guard initiated with Brazil in 2018. It was also the fourth time the New York National Guard’s space experts have met with their Brazilian counterparts to discuss space operations.

The 222nd Command and Control Squadron, based in Rome, New York, has a mission of providing personnel to augment operations of the National Reconnaissance Office.

The National Reconnaissance Office is the agency responsible for operating the United States network of spy satellites and providing space-based intelligence to the Department of Defense and other agencies.

The State Partnership Program links state National Guard forces with militaries in other nations to develop relationships and share information. New York has also had a partnership program relationship with the South African National Defense Force since 2003.

The Brazilians are seeking to develop their own military space operations program and join the system of space domain awareness the United States utilizes, said Capt. Leah Elsbeck, the space operations officer for the 222nd.

She also serves as the space liaison for the New York National Guard’s State Partnership Program office.

The purpose of the exchange is to provide the Brazilians with helpful information and lessons learned by the United States they can use as they shape their program, Elsbeck explained.

Lt. Col. Chris Graziano, the 222nd’s chief of plans and strategy, and Staff Sgt. Ryan Keenen, a counterspace intelligence analyst, also took part in the exchange with Elsbeck. A civilian representative from United States Space Command’s headquarters, Chad Goldlewski, was also part of the team.

Many of the discussions centered on managing data and how to keep track of more than 27,000 objects orbiting the earth, Elsbeck said. These range from the International Space Station to pieces of satellites blown up in weapon tests, according to NASA.

“We discussed with them the way to collect and store their information to make it accessible,” Elsbeck said.

While the 222nd members specialize in working with the National Reconnaissance Office, they are also up to date in the latest Space Force doctrine and shared that organizational information with the Brazilians, she said.

The 222nd is working to integrate the Brazilians with an existing Space Domain Awareness network used by the U.S. Space Force, the National Guard, commercial partners and allied countries, Elsbeck said.

The effort is being conducted as part of Space Command’s Joint Task Force Space Defense Joint Commercial Operations, or JTF-SD JCO for short, she said.

Brazil can contribute to this effort because it will have telescopes and sensors located near the equator, which can fill in gaps in the current tracking system, Elsbeck said.

The team discussed Brazil’s upcoming launch of two satellites into an orbit in which the country currently does not operate, highlighting the advantages and challenges that come with that expansion, she added.

Additional discussion points included Brazilian integration into United States space operations through annual exercises with both active duty and the National Guard.

The New York team visited the Brazilian Air Force’s Space Operations Center in Brasilia, the nation’s capital. They also met with officials at the Brazilian Aeronautical Institute of Technology, a joint military-civilian academic research effort, in Sao Jose dos Campos.