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Rescue Team supports rocket launch

Stock launch photo courtesy of Carleton Bailie

Stock launch photo courtesy of Carleton Bailie

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

Two 920th Rescue Wing helicopter crews and a maintenance team supported a range clearing mission ahead of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launch May 15 along the Space Coast.

According to Lt. Col. Gordon Schmidt, 301st Rescue Squadron director of operations, the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter teams ensured a safe takeoff zone by clearing approximately 300 sq. miles around NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

After several hours of preparation, the aircrews flew toward the launch zone eager to assist with the mission, Schmidt said.

“Clearing the area is a routine security measure,” Schmidt said. “It is also imperative that we keep people at a safe distance because a catastrophic event could produce debris, which could pose a risk for anyone nearby.”

Schmidt explained that 45th Space Wing ground forces typically provide aircrews with strong leads as to where boats might be located using radar technology. Once in the general region, helicopter crews use onboard weather radar equipment and other methods to find vessels in the immediate area.

Chief Master Sgt. Randolph Wells, 301RQS special missions aviation superintendent, said the mission was a success.

“Many times launches are delayed because of mechanical or weather issues,” Wells said. “But this was a perfect launch. Everything was on time and we were able to clear the area with no problems.”

According to the SpaceX website, the rocket is supposed to “deliver Inmarsat-5 F4, a communications satellite, to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit.”