Published: 09/01/2021 4:43:54 PM
There has been no apparent change to one of New Hampshire’s least known military facilities as the transition from the Air Force to the Space Force is complete, but the increasing importance of satellites, as well as the number of nations with launch capabilities, could affect its future.
“Space has been elevated to the domain of warfare,” said Lt. Col. David Zesinger, commander of New Boston Space Force Station, during a brief interview Wednesday while accompanying Senator Maggie Hassan on a tour of the facility.
Hassan toured the 2,800 hectare facility, which dates back to World War II and has housed satellite dishes since 1960, to learn about their mission. The base was officially handed over to the Space Force in July, although indications of its previous status remain, including warning signs all around the perimeter advising not to enter the US Air Force facility.
“The Space Force is a central part of the national defense,” said Hassan through a car window after a briefing in the control center of the base. She wanted to see the base in person, she said, in order to know “what the transition to the Space Force means for this mission”.
According to Zesinger, there have been no personnel changes since the change – around 120 employees work at the station.
The base has half a dozen radomes that look like gigantic golf balls. These are flexible domes made of material transparent to radio waves, each covering a single satellite dish that is used to track, communicate and control numerous government and civil satellites.
The station is part of the US Space Force Delta 6 – Space Access and Cyberspace Operations, based in Colorado.
The base spans parts of New Boston, Amherst, and Mont Vernon, and locals have long sought public access to the base, which is virtually all wooded and undeveloped.
Parts are open to active and retired military personnel for recreation and hunting, including Joe English Pond in the center. Civil access has not been allowed for decades, both for security reasons and for fear of duds and grenades left over from what is now Manchester Airport from their original purpose as a training ground for bombers.
A major push to find and lift this ban came about a decade ago, including the explosion of a 2,000 pound bomb found at the bottom of Joe English Pond, but there is no evidence that the access rules are changing will change.
“There is certainly a lot of interest in the area” in terms of public access, said Hassan. “The important thing is that it can fulfill its mission.”
The base was created in 1942 when the government bought up a number of farms in what was then a sparsely populated agricultural area west of Manchester. It served until 1956 as a training ground for military pilots of the then US Army Air Corps, which Grenier Field, today’s Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, flew. In 1960 it was put into operation as a satellite tracking station.
The Space Force was founded in 2019 as a branch of the military such as the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.
(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)