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Dawn rises from the Cape

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- The 45th Space Wing supported the successful Sept. 27 launch of a NASA probe called "Dawn" that will be the first spacecraft to orbit two asteroids on a single voyage. The probe was launched at 7:34 a.m. (EDT) aboard a Delta II booster from Space Launch Complex 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

"This mission should help us unlock some of the mysteries of our solar system. Congratulations to NASA and all of our mission partners for a great start to what should be a fantastic mission," said Col. Stephen Butler, 45th SW vice commander.

The Delta II rocket carried the probe on the first phases of its almost 10-year mission to study Ceres and Vesta, two asteroids residing in the vast asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn's goal is to characterize the conditions and processes of the solar system's earliest age by investigating in detail two of the largest protoplanets remaining intact since their formations. Dawn will study Vesta beginning in July 2010 and Ceres beginning in August 2014.

Capt. Dave Gallagher of the wing's 1st Space Launch Squadron served as the Air Force Launch Crew Commander for this launch. He has coordinated various aspects of Air Force support since July. Capt. Gallagher said, "Being part of a historic space mission is the stuff people dream about. I'll be tracking this mission for years and looking forward to all of the scientific data it yields."

Several units across the 45th SW played vital roles including providing weather forecasts, assisting with media relations and safety support. The wing also provided a vast network of radar, telemetry, optical and communications instrumentation that helped facilitate a safe launch.