Air Force Space and Missile Operations

International Space Station, artwork

Orbiting satellites and space vehicles are not just used for communications, weather forecasting, and space exploration--they also play an important role in national security. The systems include surveillance, intercontinental ballistic missile launch, space lift, ballistic space warning, and satellite command and control.

Role Summary

Space operations officers perform associated battle management, command, control, and communications activities to defend and support the United States and allied forces. They also manage space flight planning, training, and mission control, along with launching and recovering spacecraft. Additionally, they may also be astronauts or crew members for space flights. Space and Missile Operations officers are divided into categories based on experience:

  • AFSC 13S4, Staff
  • AFSC 13S3, Qualified
  • AFSC 13S2, Intermediate
  • AFSC 13S1, Entry

Duties and Responsibilities

Space operations officers in the military perform a range of these duties:

  • Plan, organize and direct space and missile operations programs.
  • Develop flight simulation exercises used to train astronauts.
  • Observe, conduct and evaluate the effectiveness of space systems and missile weapon systems training, standardization, and evaluation programs.
  • Build future plans, requirements, concepts, directives and exercises for operational employment of systems and facilities.
  • Plan space stations
  • Direct space center launch and recovery activities
  • Command and pilot space shuttles
  • Monitor foreign space flights and missile launches
  • Formulate space and missile operations policies.
  • Develop policies and procedures for current and future space and missile systems.
  • Establish organizational structure, and determines personnel required to support mission areas. Establishes training requirements and performance standards for all systems.
  • Coordinate with national and international space agencies on intercontinental ballistic missile launch, space, and satellite launching; and space warning, tracking, control, and cataloging activities.
  • Advise commanders and staff on the capability of offensive and defensive units to meet operational requirements, and on matters for operational effectiveness, combat readiness, organization, and training.
  • Conduct nuclear and emergency war order training for combat crew members; write nuclear and space annexes to operation plans.
  • Conduct space and missile operations activities, including satellite health and status.
  • Launch, early orbit, and on-orbit testing; orbital analysis and surveillance.
  • Catalog foreign and domestic space objects, detect the continental United States impacting ballistic missile threats and provide an assessment to national military command authorities.

Specialty and Knowledge Qualifications

The following knowledge is mandatory for award of the qualified AFSC roles:

  • Evolution of space and missiles
  • Space and missile organization, policy, and doctrine; requirements, acquisition, and logistics; communication systems and fundamentals
  • Nuclear weapons responsibilities
  • Technical order and Air Force policy directive familiarization;
  • Aerospace environment; orbital mechanics;
  • Trajectory and reentry concepts
  • Satellite and launch vehicle subsystems; missile combat crew operations;
  • Space warning and surveillance
  • Foreign missions and systems
  • Space and missile systems applications in a theater environment
  • Emergency war orders concepts
  • 13S3A: Satellite command and control systems.
  • 13S3B: Spacecraft systems operation; booster and payload processing; range control and safety applications; and launch processing and solid or liquid rocket performance.
  • 13S3C: Combat crew procedures, fundamentals of electricity and electronics, principles of aerodynamics, missile guidance systems, power plants, and related components.
  • 13S3D/E: Electronic, infrared, optical sensor operations; orbital analysis; and characteristics, tracking, ballistic missile trajectories, space surveillance, and space warning systems.


The following training is mandatory for an award of AFSC:

  • 13S3X: Completion of Undergraduate Space and Missile Training prior to entry into suffix specialized training courses.
  • 13S3A: Completion of a C2 operations course.
  • 13S3B: Completion of a space lift operations course.
  • 13S2C: Completion of the missile combat crew operations course.
  • 13S3D/E: Completion of a space surveillance and space warning operations course.
  • 13S3: Completion of an advanced space and missile training course.


The following experience is mandatory for an award of AFSC:

  • 13S3A: A minimum of 12 months of experience in satellite C2 units.
  • 13S3B: A minimum of 12 months of experience in space lift operations units.
  • 13S2C: Proficiency in organizing directing launch operations and emergency war order and codes certification.
  • 13S3C: Qualification in and possession of AFSC 13S2C. Also, a minimum of 12 months of experience as a deputy combat crew commander, and emergency war order and codes certification.
  • 13S3D/E: A minimum of 12 months of experience in space surveillance or space warning units.