45th Space Wing History

45th Space Wing Emblem

Blue is used to symbolize the sky and space, and gold is used to symbolize the excellence required to conduct successful range operations. Dividing the shield horizontally, across its right half, is a line of "Ts," which were adapted from previous patches reflecting the history of the wing’s installations as the Air Force’s test center for missiles and space vehicles. In the center of the shield, a large aquamarine and light blue globe represents Earth. A smaller globe, in the same colors, symbolizes the moon and other planets. Nine pimento red flight arrows indicated the normal equatorial departure routes for missiles and space vehicles on the Eastern Range. They also symbolize travel to other planets, as depicted by the smaller globe. Red was chosen for the flight arrows to indicate the stresses of launch and space flight and the heat of re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. A string of white "clouds" across the center of the large globe represent abnormal conditions, weather and radiation with which range personnel have to contend. The cloud symbol is also interpreted as the string of radomes and theodolites located throughout the Eastern Range.

The History and Heritage of the 45th Space Wing: Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

The 45th Space Wing’s evolution into the World’s Premier Gateway to Space and the Spaceport of the Future on Florida’s Space Coast began in the 1940s when what’s now known as the Eastern Range was used as a home for Army missile testing.

The 45th Bombardment Group (Light) was activated in January 1941 to conduct patrols and search missions off the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts until its deactivation in December 1942. The group's four squadrons went on to serve with the 26th Antisubmarine Wing and other bombardment groups later in World War II. During the same time period, nearby Banana River Naval Air Station, commissioned Oct. 1, 1940, supported seaplane patrols until the installation was inactivated Aug. 1, 1947.

The Navy transferred Banana River Naval Air Station to the Air Force on Sept. 1, 1948. The base was renamed the Joint Long Range Proving Ground and became home to Advance Headquarters, JLRPG, and the Air Force Division when it was established Oct. 1, 1949. The base was renamed the Long Range Proving Ground Base for three months After a Department of Defense re-delegation of guided missile test centers from joint service commands to separate branches of the military service.

On Aug. 26, 1950, the Air Force's long-range proving ground base in Cocoa Beach, Fla., was named Patrick Air Force Base in honor of the late Maj. Gen. Mason M. Patrick, who retired as chief of the Air Corps, Dec. 12, 1927. During his six-year tenure as chief of Air Service, Patrick approved the first flight around the world by Army pilots in 1924, and the Pan-American goodwill flight to every capital in Central and South America. He initiated the experimental flying organization at Wright Field, Ohio, and recommended legislation for the Air Service to become the Air Corps in 1926 under the Secretary of War, but apart from the War Department, which eventually led to the U.S. Air Force as an independent branch.

Permanent launch complexes were built in the 1950s and 1960s on the range. The earliest launch vehicles used by the Air Force were the Thor and Atlas missiles, modified by the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division and Space Systems Division. The modified missiles constituted the backbone of the U.S. space program. They were complemented by the Titan III, a powerful booster capable of launching large, heavy payloads. These three launch vehicles provided the needed thrust to place heavier and more complicated military satellites into orbit for the Air Force from the 1960s to the 1980s.

First launched in 1959, the Titan family of boosters served for nearly 50 years putting satellites and astronauts into orbit. Titan III vehicles performed well in a wide variety of missions and configurations including the Titan III (34) D, which was used during the 1980s as a backup and alternative to the manned Space Shuttle. The Titan IVB, which flew from 1997 to 2005 with 17 successful launches, was the Air Force’s largest and most powerful expendable single-use rocket. It was a space launch vehicle used to place satellites into orbit. Titan IVB rockets boosted payloads into low earth orbit, polar orbit, or geosynchronous (stationary) orbit from either Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. or Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Since the 1960’s the Eastern Range also supported the Navy’s launches of sea-based deterrent missile systems from the Atlantic Ocean. Created in 1950, the Naval Ordnance Test Unit (NOTU), headquartered at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, supports the Navy’s Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) weapon system which consists of time-proven, operational, nuclear-powered submarines, each capable of carrying nuclear tipped ballistic missiles. Operational FBM and Strategic Weapon System (SWS) submarines are under the control of the Commander, U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), who exercises authority through the Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (SUBLANT), and the Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (SUBPAC).

On Oct. 1, 1979, Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station were consolidated under the Eastern Space and Missile Center (ESMC) to assume responsibility over all activities at the range. The Eastern Test Range and affiliated facilities continued to support Department of Defense, National Air and Space Administration, Air Force, and other test and evaluation agencies, including the operation of "down-range" facilities at Antigua and Ascension Islands.

In the 1980s, Air Force Space Command was formed and, within a decade, assumed launch responsibility for all Atlas E, Atlas II, Delta II, Titan II and Titan IV assets and missions, as well as gaining the range and both installations. Air Force Launch Vehicles at the time included the Titan IV, first launched in June 1989. It could be used with either an Inertial Upper Stage or a newly developed version of the Centaur Upper Stage. It could place 10,000 pounds into geosynchronous orbit using the Centaur, and its performance was further improved by upgraded solid rocket motors, which completed their final test firing in September 1993.

On Oct. 1, 1990, the Eastern Space and Missile Center and control of all operational space lift vehicles was transferred from Air Force Systems Command to Air Force Space Command, with the goal of establishing a new operational wing to oversee Eastern Test Range operations. The new operational wing was established as the 45th Space Wing on Nov. 12, 1991.

Also on that date, Headquarters, 45th Bombardment Group (Medium) was redesignated Headquarters, 45th Operations Group, and assigned to Air Force Space Command, then further assigned to the 45th Space Wing and activated at Patrick Air Force Base. Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Merrill A. McPeak selected the designation of the “45th” as the wing’s unit number based on the lineage and honors of inactivated units with the same number at Patrick Air Force Base.

Under the new designation, the 45th Space Wing’s first launch was NASA’s Space Shuttle Atlantis on Nov. 24, 1991. Atlantis carried a Defense Support Program satellite into orbit.

Following that launch, the 45th Space Wing supported the commercial launch of an Atlas II-Centaur on Dec. 7, 1991, which delivered a European television satellite into orbit. The satellite was designed to route telephone signals across Europe for the European Telecommunication Satellite Organization – EUTELSAT, which the wing continues to launch from the range today. Since its activation in 1991, the wing has supported more than 550 launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station involving numerous space launch vehicles to include the Atlas II-Centaur, Atlas IIIA, Atlas V, Delta II, Delta III, Delta IV, Falcon 9, Space Shuttle and Titan IVB.

In 1992, Air Force Space Command issued a special order which struck the name "Force" from all Air Force stations under its command. This was done in an effort to standardize installation names within Air Force Space Command. As a result, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was redesignated Cape Canaveral Air Station. On Feb. 4, 2000, Air Force Space Command reversed its 1992 decision with a special order reinstating the word "Force" to all Air Station names under its command. The decision was made to counter criticism within the Air Force community that "Air Stations" by name did not distinguish Air Force Air Stations from Air Stations in other branches of service, such as Naval Air Stations. The decision was also intended to give named credit to Air Force personnel involved in the day-to-day operations on each Air Station. As a result, Cape Canaveral Air Station was redesignated Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the name it was originally given in 1974.

On March 1, 1995, the 45th Space Wing declared the new Range Operations Control Center (ROCC) operational, decentralizing and consolidating range operations into a single location for each active launch pad and increasing safety and efficiency for the wing. The ROCC was later renamed the Morrell Operations Center (MOC) in a ceremony on Nov. 2, 2007. The name change was to honor the late Maj. Gen. Jimmey R. Morrell, who served as the first commander of the 45th Space Wing from Nov. 12, 1991, to June 23, 1993. He was a driving force not only for the range’s redesignation but also for facility and process changes. Decentralizing and consolidating range operations into a single location for each active launch pad increased safety and efficiency for the wing. A dedication wall with a plaque and a likeness of General Morrell is on display just inside the main entrance of the MOC.

On March 28, 1996, the first launch of the Global Positioning System replenishment satellite, Navigation System Timing and Ranging II-25, lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air force Station. This system changed the way members travel from point A to point B, while increasing the accuracy and efficiency of daily operations. Their design life is 7.5 years for Block IIA, IIR, and IIR-M (but many are lasting longer than 10 - 12 years) and 12 years for Block IIF. An Airmen-led processing team at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station has processed every satellite of the series since GPS IIF-1 launched in May 2010. In total, Generation II GPS launches will have spanned over 28 years comprised of 61 space vehicles amongst five different blocks: II, IIA, IIR, IIR-M, and IIF.

The Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) is used to launch GPS satellites from Cape Canaveral Air Station, Fla., into nearly 11,000-mile circular orbits. The EELVs are the Air Force’s latest launch vehicles and include the Delta IV and the Atlas V, which were designed to improve U.S. access to space by making Standard Launch Vehicles more affordable and reliable. These launch vehicles provide critical spacelift capability to support Department of Defense and other National Security missions. With multiple launch vehicle configurations and launch sites on both coasts of the U.S., EELV has a proven track record of success, demonstrating unprecedented reliability with more than 50 successful launches since 2002. Of those launches, more than 30 have been EELV National Security Space launches in support of the Navy, National Reconnaissance Office and the Air Force.

The EELVs program's Delta IV and Atlas V launch vehicles are produced by United Launch Alliance (a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin formed in 2006). The inaugural flight of the Atlas V took place on Aug. 21, 2002, from Space Launch Complex 4, and the first successful flight of the Delta IV took place Nov. 20, 2002, from Launch Complex 37B. On March 10, 2003, the first Delta IV (Medium) EELVs military launch occurred from Cape Canaveral. The Delta IV placed a Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) III into orbit.

On May 22, 2012, the 45th Space Wing supported the first SpaceX Falcon 9 launch on its NASA commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. SpaceX’s Dragon became the first private spacecraft in history to visit the station. The resupply mission successfully delivered 1,200 pounds of cargo for the station’s crew and experiments designed by students. The Air Force awarded a GPS III launch services contract to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 on April, 27, 2016. This request for proposal marks a milestone in the Air Force's ongoing efforts to reintroduce competition into the EELV program.

The combination of evolutionary changes, innovative thinking, increased technology and strong partnership on the Eastern Range allowed history to be made, yet again, on Dec. 21, 2015, with the first successful return landing of a Falcon 9 rocket first-stage booster at Landing Zone 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Prior to that, the wing supported a series of SpaceX first-stage landing attempts on an autonomous spaceport drone ship.

Today, the Eastern Range extends more than 10,000 miles from the Florida mainland through the South Atlantic and into the Indian Ocean. It includes the launch head at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and a network of instrumentation stations, including Malabar and Jonathan Dickinson tracking annexes and downrange sites.

The 45th Space Wing and its Eastern Range assets continue to provide a vast network of radar, telemetry and communications instrumentation support to facilitate the safe launch of all Department of Defense National Security Space, National Aeronautics Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, commercial and Naval Ordnance Test Unit’s support to the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs missions.

There are currently four active launch complexes on the Eastern Range; Launch Complex 37 for ULA Delta; Launch Complex 40 for SpaceX Falcon 9; Launch Complex 41 for ULA Atlas; Launch Complex 36 for Blue Origin, who is in a contract with Space Florida, and Launch Complex 18 is reserved for Moon Express. The Navy continues to launch Trident II (D5) Missiles underwater from the OHIO Class of nuclear-propelled TRIDENT submarines. The 45th Space Wing supported 23 successful major launches in 2016 and anticipates more than 30 launches in 2017 with a drive to achieve 48 launches in 1 year by 2021.

(Current as of February 2017)