HomeNewsArticle Display

Eastern Range continues to show off "flexibility"

July 10, 2009 -- Nine spectacular launches have occurred here on the Eastern Range (ER) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) so far this year, with number 10 expected to occur Saturday night when Shuttle Endeavor blasts off from Pad 39A. With just hours left until the countdown finally hits zero and Endeavor lights up the Central Florida sky, many people may be wondering when Endeavor recently scrubbed, what we all had to do to ensure that an Atlas V rocket carrying the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter/Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LRO/LCROSS), which is now orbiting around the moon, could launch safely just 39 short hours later? 

"That answer is simple," said Maj. Ray Fernandez, 1st Range Operations Squadron (ROPS). "A lot of meticulous things had to happen in a specific order in a short amount of time. And due to the tremendous efforts of our entire launch team here we were able and will continue to be able to rapidly respond to a changing launch schedule and the needs of all our range customers," he said. 

Demonstrating remarkable flexibility and a "can do" attitude, the ER's Technical Support contractor completely changed the configuration of range systems from the Endeavor's high-inclination trajectory set up to that of the Atlas V's trans-lunar trajectory in time to accurately pickup the Atlas V countdown. The 1st ROPS scheduling section also de-conflicted and rescheduled all the required instrumentation and operational assets necessary to support the Atlas mission. They also coordinated to ensure that required airspace and "seaspace" was clear on launch day. 

Then the 45th Weather Squadron provided incredibly accurate forecasting and data on a clear spot between typical Florida evening summer storms that allowed the Atlas V to launch on one of only three one-second opportunities. 

This is just the most recent example of the range's flexibility and responsiveness to customer launch and processing schedules. Another example occurred in March of this year, when the Range supported four launches within only 27 days. All told, the Range went through five complete reconfigurations in less than one month: 

· March 7 - Delta II Kepler (hyperbolic Earth-escape trajectory) launch.
· March 11 - STS-119 scrub.
· March 15 - STS-119 (high-inclination ISS rendezvous mission) launch.
· March 17 - Atlas V WGS mission scrub.
· March 24 - Delta II GPS IIR-20 (easterly inclination medium Earth orbit) launch.
· March 28 - STS-119 landing at Kennedy Space Center
· April 3 - Atlas V WGS mission (easterly inclination into geosynchronous orbit) launch.

Not only does the range rapidly respond to launch schedule changes, but normal launch campaigns include innumerable dress rehearsals, tanking tests, facility maintenance and vehicle/instrumentation checkouts ... over 22,000 activities each year! 

The Range's ability to deconflict this kind of asset utilization and to accommodate customer processing and launch schedules demonstrates exemplary resiliency. This bodes well for Operationally Responsive Space missions and their necessary flexible scheduling. 

"I am very proud of the combined government and contractor team," said Col. Jim Ross, commander, 45th Operation Group. "Their outstanding dedication and flexibility to support the Atlas V LRO/LCROSS launch illustrates why we say 'Control of the Battlefield Begins Here!'"