The top space story today is NASA’s successful Discovery Shuttle launch. The launch marks NASA’s space shuttle return to flight, but they are not doing it alone.
Above: Today, Space Shuttle Discovery launched from pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. (photo credit: NASA/KSC). Below:A team of Air Force Space Command professionals provides critical weather conditions information before the latest Discovery Shuttle launch. (L to R) Major Todd McNamara, flight commander; Mr. Clark Pinder, deputy launch weather officer-radar; 1st Lt. Mike Jennings, deputy launch weather officer-reconnaissance; and Major Stephen Cocks evaluate a weather cell for natural or triggered lightning potential during a launch countdown in the Range Operations Control Center, Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. (photo credit: 45th Space Wing Public Affairs)
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PETERSON AFB, Colo. – The top space story today is NASA’s successful Discovery Shuttle launch. The launch marks NASA’s space shuttle return to flight, but they are not doing it alone.
“NASA could not launch the space shuttle without range and space surveillance support from Air Force Space Command,” said Jeffrey Ashby, former astronaut and liaison between the command and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. “The dedication and attention to detail of AFSPC members are absolutely necessary for safe operation of the space shuttle.”
That support is provided by members of the 1st Space Control Squadron, 45th Space Wing, 21st Space Wing, 50th Space Wing, 14th Air Force and Air Force Space Command. Each unit is part of the command’s combined efforts to meet both launch and on-orbit space shuttle requirements.
“We support NASA through our space surveillance network,” said Lt. Col. David Maloney, chief, Space Situation Awareness Branch. “Our network consists of 31 radars and telescopes that track more than 13,000 man-made objects on a daily basis.”
This information, mostly provided by the 1 SPCS, comes into play when the NASA plans the shuttle’s launch and orbit path.
“It’s important to know where all of the objects are because we certainly don’t want to launch the shuttle into the oncoming path of an orbiting man-made space object that is sufficient size to damage the shuttle,” said Colonel Maloney.
Outside of SSA support, the Safety and Range/Spacelift Division at AFSPC headquarters also contributes to the shuttle launch.
“After the last launch, NASA said they needed better cameras. During the past two years we have worked on enhancements at the range to include long-range cameras that can track the shuttle after launch and improve video playback capabilities,” said Maj. Vince Cassara, chief, Safety and Range/Spacelift Division.
Major Cassara’s division also assists with range money and equipment issues and oversight for day-to-day operations.
The 50th SW will support the shuttle during launch, as well as, throughout the mission.
“The 21, 22, 23 Space Operations Squadrons will all provide real time support to the shuttle mission.” said Col. David Uhrich, 50th Network Operations Group commander. “The Air Force Satellite Control Network will provide more than 175 shuttle contact sorties during the flight. In addition, we have spent months and countless man-hours working with NASA to ensure accurate dataflows from Johnson Space Center, through the AFSN, to the shuttle and back. Shuttle return to flight efforts have been a Group priority.”