Peterson is the “host” base for NORAD and the Cheyenne Mountain facility. It is also the home of the 76th Space Control Squadron, whose mission is to test offensive and defensive space weapons systems, and the United States Space Command, which oversees all U.S. military operations in space. In other words, this is where the United States is planning to fight a war in outer space.
If the Colorado Springs area has become the de facto center of American military space efforts, then Peterson is the “Pentagon” for those efforts. If there is eventually a war in outer space or one involving space-based weapons, it will be directed from Peterson.
What’s There: If it has anything to do with military uses of space, it is directed, administered, planned, compiled, or analyzed here. The United States Space Command is the umbrella organization for all military space operations, including the Air Force, Navy, and Army. Military surveillance (including missile launch and atomic explosion detection), communications, and navigation (including GPS) satellite operations are also based here. Space training activities such as how to download and interpret data from satellites or maneuver satellites are conducted here. Activities at other space-related Air Force bases such as Onizuka Air Force Station in California or Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado are commanded from Peterson.
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Key Facilities: Peterson Air Force Base occupies 1,277 acres and from the outside looks much like any other Air Force base, with runways, control tower, aircraft hangars, and several government-issue office and housing facilities. The good stuff the supercomputers, command and control facilities, communications facilities, etc. are safely hidden from public view.
Secret Stuff: Perhaps no secrets in the U.S. military are more tightly guarded than those involving offensive space weapons. However, it is widely reported that small, highly maneuverable “killer microsatellites” are being developed and tested at Peterson. These are designed to take out another country’s satellite systems through such methods
as high-energy lasers, directed-energy beams (such as a “rain” of neutrons), or electrostatic discharges (to destroy the integrated circuits inside enemy satellites). It is also believed that other killer microsatellites under development will be able to jam communications and navigation satellites with false signals. For example, this would mean that cruise missiles or other weapons systems that depend upon satellite signals to find their targets could be redirected back toward targets within the enemy country that launched them.
Getting a Look Inside: Peterson does not currently offer public tours. However, the Peterson Air and Space Museum, located just inside the north gate of the base, is open to the public and features exhibits about NORAD and many types of aircraft. The museum is at 150 East Ent Avenue. For current hours of operations and admission procedures, call (719) 556-4915.
Unusual Fact: In January 2001, the Air Force announced that it was investigating reports that some of its personnel at Peterson were using Ecstasy and LSD. 15 persons were eventually relieved of their duties while being investigated. Imagine having a laser-armed killer microsatellite under your control while tripping on X or Purple Haze!
Getting There: Peterson Air Force Base is on the east side of Colorado Springs, south of Platte Avenue near Highways 24 and 94. It is just north of the Colorado Springs airport.