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AFSO21 to improve launches

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The 45th Space Wing continues to move forward with ways to improve under Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century (AFSO21).

Members from various military units and civilian organizations met last week to compare findings and discuss plans for a consistent Roadmap to Launch (RTL) that could be used on both the Eastern and Western Ranges.

Larry Hornback from the Wing's AFSO21 Program Office and Maj. Julia Black of the 1st Range Operations Squadron have been the facilitators for this project, in the works since late last year; it represents the work of both the 45th and the 30th Space Wing, based at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

"Senior leadership endorsed an action plan that was the result of people in the field at both wings working together over the past two to three years in various forums wanting to make a positive difference," said Major Black.

"Our function [as facilitators] is mainly to act as a consultant that helps lead the event to achieve the objectives set by Wing leadership," said Mr. Hornback.

"The facilitator recognizes when the team stalls on a point and recommends alternative approaches to address the issue that will yield productive results," added Major Black.
Attention has turned to launch operations because some processes were ill-placed in the sequence of events, causing unnecessary strain as the launch date approached. Further, on the Eastern Range, launches were set up differently from those on the West. The meeting identified 14 processes on the Eastern Range that needed to be moved, as well as 11 additional areas where efficiency could be improved, said Mr. Hornback.

"As we worked our way through this massive examination of our launch support processes, the Western Range was doing the same," said Mr. Hornback. "Last week, then, was a compare and contrast of the homework done previously by both ranges to help guide us in designing a future state for RTL."

A consistent launch procedure will aid in communication as well increase the value for the customers using the Eastern and Western Ranges. "Our processes should be as transparent as possible. Imagine trying to have dialog on a substantive issue between the ranges when we neither speak the same language in all instances or we execute the RTL differently," Mr. Hornback said. "In addition, think how this dissimilarity confuses our range customers."

To recapitalize assets in a time of diminished resources, Mr. Hornback said, those who run the launch procedures will need to step outside their normal comfort zones and seek innovative solutions. "Enduring success of any program or culture only occurs when everyone is on board," he added.

Major Black considers long-term commitment to plan implementation and overcoming the challenges of decreasing resources to be two of the biggest challenges to overcome. "There are numerous inter-dependencies that need to be addressed and synchronized to optimize the end effect," she said.

She believes, however, that each improvement will contribute to better understanding and unity within the spacelift community. "Consistency executed by the range and users will go a long way in supporting space policy for commerce and the Department of Defense," she said. "We must ensure control of the battlefield begins here."

To Mr. Hornback, the Roadmap to Launch is but another in a long line of operations that have been changed for the better by AFSO21, including range scheduling, systems safety and deployments. "For each of these, we have detailed action plans that will lead to better and more efficient launch operations in the coming years," he said. "And the journey down this road has just begun."