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Tue, Jul 26, 2005

USAF: Shuttle Return To Flight Includes Local Efforts

Almost two weeks after its original launch date, NASA’s Discovery Shuttle is scheduled for its return to flight July 26, 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.”

Support will be provided by Airmen 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 of the 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 comes into play when NASA officials plan 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,” Colonel Maloney said.

Outside of the space situation awareness 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,” said Maj. Vince Cassara, chief of the division. “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.”

Major Cassara’s division also assists with range money and equipment issues and oversight for the day-to-day operations. [ANN Thanks Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Thibault, Air Force Space Command Public Affairs]



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