In September 2022 Royal Air Force Fylingdales not only celebrated 30 years of continuous operations with our current RADAR, we also saw the return of a geodesic dome.
The original golf balls dating back to 1963 were giant constructions built to protect the space RADARs inside them against the wind and rain and especially the heavy snow that is a regular occurrence on the North York Moors. The new one is not quite as big as the 140ft tall icons but impressive in its own way.
The dome measures 6.7m in diameter and almost 4m tall, the skin is clear allowing views outside ideal for stargazing. The structure is incredibly robust, a steel frame accessed through a lockable wooden door and coir matting for flooring over a membrane that will retain heat and keep out any damp. In preparation for the long cold winters here on the Moors, the dome has been equipped with a log burning stove to keep our people warm. The dome is a stunning construction and possesses the attributes that Buckminster Fuller made famous in the 50s, wind proof and weather resistant as the gales blow over the dome thanks to the unique and clever design.
The dome had its first outing during the 30th anniversary celebrations with use as a yoga area and due to the adverse weather the selfie wall was relocated inside, forming a quiet retreat from the buffeting winds and driving rain. We were able to utilise our Jackary power pack to light the area and add music, this great addition as part of the dome project is very versatile and provides instant power in the dome which can be charged using solar panels as well as mains power.
The Fylingdales dome is one element of a larger stargazing project. Designed to offer an area for reflection and wellness for our personnel, many who operate 24/7 in poorly lit conditions with no windows. The dome has proved to be a big success, stylish and stunning, once inside our people are transported into a sea of calm. The opportunity to see our amazing starscape has proven to be a real draw as the dome is utilised alongside our telescope observatory. In addition to the benefits of the dome, we have collaborated with the North York Moors ‘dark skies’ programme, the dimming of the lights is important for control of light pollution. We play our part, and our personnel can see the benefits inside the dome looking up and out.
Although the project has been in the making for almost 18 months because of COVID issues, without the kind assistance of the Armed Forces Covenant Fund we would not have been able to fund such an amazing piece of kit. The process was extremely straightforward and clear markers signposted what to do and when. The benefits to such a small Station like RAF Fylingdales cannot be measured in financial terms. The rewards are evident in the response from our work force who now have a multifunctional space, steeped in our own history and here to stay. Thank you to NAAFI Fund.
Alongside tracking ballistic missiles, the crews at RAF Fylingdales are also responsible for tracking objects in orbit. Looking 3000 miles into space monitoring and tracking debris, satellites and even the International Space Station. This important mission has seen a significant increase of activity recently due to companies like Space X and One Web launching hundreds of small satellites as a matter of routine.
Although the RADAR celebrates its 30 year anniversary recently, RAF Fylingdales has been operational since 1963. The industrial looking pyramid on the Moors replaced the iconic Golf Balls in 1992 as technology developed and traditional mechanical means of monitoring space gave way to computerised systems. The Station will celebrate 60 years of operations in October 2023.
RAF Fylingdales is a jewel in the crown of the nation. The Station has contributed to the defence of the UK, and its allies, non-stop since 1963 and is one of two founding units of UK Space Command. With a heritage of almost 60 years defending the nation and providing Space Domain Awareness, it cements Fylingdales’ place, not only in the nation’s history but its future in understanding events occurring in space.