45th Space Wing supports NASA's Orion EFT-1 mission atop Delta IV Heavy
By 45th Space Wing, Public Affairs
/ Published December 05, 2014
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- The U.S. Air Force's 45th Space Wing provided Eastern Range support for NASA's successful launch of their Exploration Flight Test-1 mission as a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket roared into space with the Orion spacecraft atop it from Launch Complex 37 at 7:05 a.m. Dec. 5, 2014.
The largest of the Delta IV family, the heavy version features three Common Booster Cores mounted together to form a triple-body rocket.
Airmen, Air Force civilians and contractors from throughout the 45th Space Wing provided vital support, including weather forecasts, launch and range operations, security, safety, infrastructure, medical and public affairs. The wing also provided its vast network of radar and communications instrumentation to facilitate a safe launch on the Eastern Range.
According to NASA, the Orion spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, is designed to take humans farther than they've ever gone before. Orion will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.
The Orion Flight Test will evaluate launch and high speed re-entry systems such as avionics, attitude control, parachutes and the heat shield.
In the future, Orion will launch on NASA's new heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System.
More powerful than any rocket ever built, SLS will be capable of sending humans to deep space destinations such as an asteroid and eventually Mars. Exploration Mission-1 will be the first mission to integrate Orion and the Space Launch System.
"What a thrill and tremendous opportunity for all members of Team Patrick-Cape to play a very active -- and vitally important role -- in this historic mission," said Brig. Gen. Nina Armagno, 45th Space Wing commander.
"The 45th Space Wing is proud to participate with NASA and our mission partners on a successful mission from our storied Cape Canaveral Air Force Station," she said. "Here at the 45th Space Wing, we assure access to space, and this mission is a testament to all the hard work and teamwork that culminated in a safe, successful launch. Congratulations to all on a job well done."
This Delta IV Heavy mission will take the Orion spacecraft to the highest orbit for a spacecraft designed for humans since the Apollo Program, then deliver it to a re-entry location for splashdown and recovery off the California Coast, where members of Detachment 3, Human Space Flight Support Directorate, located at Patrick Air Force Base, will help with the recovery of the Orion capsule.
Among the missions, Detachment 3 is responsible for (now and in the future) are astronaut rescue and recovery, landing site support, payload security, medical, airlift/sealift, and other support services as required.
"There are probably a lot of people who aren't aware the Air Force is involved in the capsule recovery process, but that's been one of our unit's major missions for years, especially during the Apollo years," said Lt. Col. Mike McClure, HSFS Detachment 3 commander.
"We will have members of our team in the Human Space Flight Support Operations Center here at Patrick, and also have our people on the ship -- the USS ANCHORAGE -- that is conducting the recovery of the Orion Crew Module. We are very much engaged in the recovery process and have been training for this mission for the past 18 months."
The Commander of U.S. Strategic Command (CDRUSSTRATCOM) is the DOD Manager for Human Space Flight Support (HSFS) Operations and has responsibilities and authorities to validate operational support resources requested by NASA. As the DOD Manager's primary staff, Detachment 3 is the principle DOD interface for NASA's HSFS programs.
But, for McClure, there is something personal about leading his team members and being a part of such a historic mission.
"I think at some point every kid looks to the sky and dreams about being an astronaut, or being involved in the space program. That's what we are doing here, and I could not be more proud of our team or their ability to do this mission," he said. "We're living the dream."