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EFT-1: A launch legacy we’ll proudly carry forever

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- It seems every time I think I can't be more proud to be your commander, you go and do something else to make me realize (once again) that there is no limit to the greatness this team can achieve when we all come together.

That was certainly the case in the early morning hours of Dec. 5, when we fully supported and successfully launched a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying NASA's Orion spacecraft (built by Lockheed Martin) from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. 

The ULA Delta IV Heavy, currently the world's largest rocket, carried Orion twice through the Van Allen Belt where it experienced high periods of radiation, and reached an altitude of 3,600 miles above Earth during its maiden test flight.

Orion also hit speeds of 20,000 mph and weathered temperatures approaching 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere.

Not only were we able to "put the package in the mail," we were also able to play a major role in the recovery of the Orion Crew Module as it splashed down approximately 4.5 hours after liftoff in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 600 miles southwest of San Diego.

Members of our very own 45th Operations Group Detachment 3 Human Space Flight Support,  in partnership with NASA, the U.S. Navy, and Lockheed Martin, were able to load the module onto the USS ACHORAGE and safeguard the vital data Orion gathered that will help with future missions.

Listen, even though every single mission we do at the Cape gets our undivided attention to detail (100 percent mission success remains our No. 1 Priority), the "launch buzz" for this mission was undeniable  -- and all of us on the launch team felt it.

Being part of something that helped open the door for the return of Human Space Flight is a memory all of Team Patrick-Cape will carry - and carry proudly - for the rest of our lives.  You were there and played an important role in the "new beginning."

That being said, let's all turn our attention to the next launch on our manifest, SpaceX's fifth operational cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station scheduled for the afternoon of Dec.  16.

As busy as we are here on the Eastern Range, we don't have the luxury of spending a lot of time looking in the rearview mirror.

We need to keep our eye on the prize in front of us -- and that's ALWAYS the mission.

Stay Focused, Sharks!