When Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, the Space Force’s chief of space operations, required assistance moving a large satellite from Maryland to California last month, he contacted the National Guard.
The device was a German-made SARah 1 reconnaissance satellite officials consider critical for filling gaps in the U.S. geospatial enterprise over Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, according to unclassified messages Guard officials provided.
The satellite – at the Port of Baltimore after maritime shipment – needed to reach California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base for commercial launch by SpaceX.
The German Ministry of Defense initially contracted the world’s largest cargo aircraft, the six-engine Ukrainian Antonov 225, to airlift the satellite across the U.S. But the Antonov became unusable after Russian troops destroyed the aircraft at an airfield outside Kyiv in February.
Plan B was adapting a C-5M Super Galaxy, but the modifications were impossible before launch deadlines, unclassified messages said.
Ground transportation was the only alternative. German officials hired a U.S. trucking company, but the satellite, its generator and equipment box couldn’t separate due to environmental controls.
Many states also prohibit more than one oversize cargo item on a flatbed truck. Special permissions from each state along the route were quickly needed due to the move’s tight timeline.
On May 5, Raymond emailed Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, the National Guard Bureau chief. Hokanson and Raymond are also members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Raymond wanted the adjutants general of Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California to work with their transportation departments and expedite the truckers’ required permit applications.
The Space Force head emphasized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the short schedule for transferring the satellite required the Guard's help.
Hokanson requested aid from the eight states along the satellite’s route the same day.
Permits were secured, with the satellite reaching Vandenberg by May 23, leaving prep time for a scheduled June 17 launch.
- By John Goheen