A top space story today is NASA’s Discovery Shuttle pending launch. The launch marks NASA’s space shuttle return to flight, but they are not doing it alone.
Space Shuttle Discovery
E-mail this page
PETERSON AFB, Colo. – A top space story today is NASA’s Discovery Shuttle pending 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 the 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 the members of the 1st Space Control Squadron, 45th Space Wing, 21st 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 1st 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 the 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 improved 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 the day-to-day operations.
With their stake in the shuttle launch, the major and his team are sticking close to their television screens waiting for updates on the mission status. The shuttle returning to flight “would be something we’d really like to see,” he said.