5th SLS: Vital to 45th SW mission success

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David M. Ashley
  • 5th Space Launch Squadron commander
After almost three years in the 5th Space Launch Squadron I've become well versed on the vital role we are assigned in supporting the spacelift mission of our country. However, in discussions with other members of Team Patrick-Cape, it's evident that many of our Airmen and mission partners are not aware of our contributions. So, here's an attempt to shed light on what we do at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

As we like to say...it IS rocket science.

The current 5th SLS was activated Dec. 1, 2003, with a charter of providing mission assurance for processing and launch of Atlas V and Delta IV rockets. Today, our mission is to: Provide world-class technical surveillance and risk assessment of launch vehicle processing and operations in pursuit of 100 percent mission success.

Quite a mouthful, right?
I'll bet a rocket scientist wrote it.

One of the key words in the 5th SLS charter is mission assurance. It is the heart of what we do every day. Mission assurance is not the same as quality assurance, also known as quality control, which is focused on preventing defects in manufacturing of parts. Simply stated, mission assurance is identifying, tracking and assessing risk for assembly, testing and operations.

The 5th SLS accomplishes mission assurance with a Triad approach. We have enlisted 2MO missile maintainers, officer 62E engineers, and aerospace corporation scientists and engineers who perform mission assurance during rocket processing, test and launch. Our enlisted maintainers are the experts in crane operations, transports and all hazardous operations. The 62E officers are recent graduates from college engineering programs and provide team leadership with a fresh set of eyes and ideas.

Finally, our aerospace corporation teammates have master's and doctorate's in engineering and often more than 20-years' experience in mechanical, electrical and astronautical engineering.

Together, our Triad performs technical surveillance during the most critical rocket processing, test and launch procedures. They ensure the contractor, United Launch Alliance, follow technical data, adhere to safety protocols and take appropriate action for any anomalies that may occur.

Our very presence reduces the risk of: injury to personnel, damage to flight hardware and a potential launch failure. Additionally, we have the highest concentration of rocket scientists per square foot in the world.

Really. Pocket protector, anybody?

At the end of the day, the 5th SLS makes a launch "Go or, No-Go" recommendation to the commander, 14th Air Force and the Space and Missile Systems Center commander. We also explain any technical issues on the rocket that may increase the risk of mission degradation of failure. If we've done our job well, launch occurs, a satellite is placed into orbit and a new capability is available for military, civil and scientific use.
Next time you see an Atlas V or Delta IV launch from CCAFS, hopefully you think about the far-reaching and vital role played by the awesome folks in the 5th SLS.

Go Dragons! Go Atlas V! Go Delta IV!