PATRICK SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla. --
The 1st Range Operations Squadron (1 ROPS) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station is set to support approximately 65 launches in 2022, an approximate 130% increase from the prior three years.
The 1 ROPS mission on the Eastern Range is to provide world class range services to launch customers such as SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, Astra, Relativity, and many others.
“We are in the process of on-ramping about half a dozen different launch service providers in the next year,” said Capt. Emily Youngman, range operations officer for 1 ROPS. “We are going to be getting more and more customers to the range which is really exciting.”
Despite the launch tempo increase, 1 ROPS stays prepared for when a service partner calls wanting to launch.
Once they get the notification to launch, 1 ROPS begins the preparation process.
“We do mission dress rehearsals, integrated crew exercises, wet dress rehearsals, static fires, and a range of different activities leading up to the launch itself,” said Youngman.
The 1 ROPS team gets on console for a launch many hours prior. The exact time they arrive before a launch varies with the different providers.
“There is a team of two to three range operations commanders, ROCs, that sit on-console in the mission control room and pull in various information and data inputs from teams dispersed around Cape Canaveral,” said Capt. Johnathan Eno, assistant director of operations for 1 ROPS. “They decipher that information, understand how it affects range status, and communicate it to the users as well as the launch decision authority or the senior delta officer.”
Along with the ROCs, the surveillance team provides air and sea insight to the ROCs ensuring the safety of others.
“The 1 ROPS is all about public safety,” said Youngman. “We keep people safe by keeping them out of launch danger zones.”
The surveillance teams make sure the airspace and sea space underneath the rocket’s trajectory is clear of aircraft and boaters.
After gathering all the information and the launch is clear to proceed, they continue down their checklist of nominal/non nominal procedures throughout the launch.
“Once the rocket launches, we go through different plus count events, we are making sure the rocket is staying on its trajectory and we will keep on that mission set until the end of range safety responsibility, which is called the head on gate,” said Youngman.
Once the rocket reaches the head on gate, all teams gather to collect debrief items, conduct a hotwash, and talk about the successes of the mission, as well as what they can improve on.
“The important thing to focus on is that launch is a team sport,” said Eno. “The 1 ROPS play a key part, but getting to T-0 does not happen without the entire Delta team.”
The 1 ROPS are directly contributing to national security and the growth of the space industry.
“We are setting the pace and leading the way in launch operations,” said Youngman. “We really are supporting the assured access to space mission.”