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
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
“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
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