Air Force Reservists support successful SpaceX launch
By 920th Public Affairs, 920th Rescue Wing
/ Published March 16, 2017
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- Air Force Reservists from the 920th Rescue Wing secured the Eastern Range prior to SpaceX’s successful launch of the EchoStar XXIII spacecraft aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center March 16 at 2 a.m. EDT.
Prior to every Space Coast rocket launch, Rescue Wing Airmen are on scene hours prior to the launch to clear and secure the Eastern Range.
A combined team of military, government civilians and contractors from across the 920th RQW and 45th Space Wing provided support to the mission, including weather forecasts, launch and range operations, security, safety and public affairs.
This particular rocket, however, will have a few less people monitoring its launch in the near future.
According to SpaceX, this launch is expected to be the last time a Falcon rocket relies on an officer ready at the console as part of a traditional flight termination system.
EchoStar 23, designed and built by Space Systems Loral for EchoStar Corporation, will provide television broadcast services over Brazil with an estimated service life of 15 years.
All future SpaceX rockets will utilize an Autonomous Flight Safety System which replaces the ground-based mission flight control personnel and equipment with on-board Positioning, Navigation and Timing sources and decision logic. The benefits of AFSS include increased public safety, reduced reliance on range infrastructure, reduced range spacelift cost, increased schedule predictability and availability, operational flexibility, and launch slot flexibility.
“It’s just a much more streamlined way to launch, relying on newer technology for sure,” SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said of the automated system.
During flight, GPS and other sensors on the Falcon continuously record the rocket’s position and trajectory. If the rocket crosses pre-programmed boundary lines, triggering repeated violations of flight rules, onboard computers would command explosive devices to detonate, just as if the signals were sent from the ground.
“We truly have a tremendous team here on the Space Coast and it’s my honor to be a part of this mission supporting the commercial space industry,” said Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing commander and Launch Decision Authority for this mission. “Assured access to space is a team sport here on the Eastern Range. This operation once again clearly demonstrates the successful collaboration we have with our mission partner SpaceX as we continue to shape the future of America's space operations and showcase why the 45th Space Wing is the ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space.’”
Monteith said the successful launch with an Automated Flight Safety System, or AFSS, was a historic “game-changer,” demonstrating technology that will improve safety, lower costs and enable more launches from the Eastern Range.
The Eastern Range’s goal is to be able support 48 launches a year by 2020 — potentially more than 70 launch attempts — as newcomers like Blue Origin enter the scene. Automated safety systems make that more feasible
The Air Force Pave Hawk helicopter is a highly modified version of the Army Black Hawk helicopter which features an upgraded communications and navigation suite that includes integrated inertial navigation/global positioning/Doppler navigation systems, satellite communications, secure voice, and Have Quick communications.
The primary mission of the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter is to conduct day or night personnel recovery operations into hostile environments to recover isolated personnel during war. The HH-60G is also tasked to perform military operations other than war, including civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, humanitarian assistance, security cooperation/aviation advisory, NASA space flight support, and rescue command and control.
The 920th RQW owns and operates 15 Pave Hawks and 6 HC-130s.
Information for this news release was compiled from a Florida Today news article, “Only on Falcon 9: Automated system can terminate SpaceX rocket launches,” and a 45th Space Wing news release.