Tuesday, January 24, 2012

AF reservists support first rocket launch of year

by Capt. Cathleen Snow, 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (AFNS) -- Air Force Reserve Combat-search-and-rescue Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., supported the successful launch of a Delta IV rocket carrying the fourth Wideband Global SATCOM satellite at 7:38 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 37 here Jan. 19.

Maintenance Airmen readied two of the 920th's HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, which aircrews took flight in two hours before the launch window, at approximately 5:30 p.m., to secure the Eastern Range.

The 45th Space Wing launched the United Launch Alliance Delta IV-Medium rocket WGS-04, which is the first craft in the program's upgraded Block 2 series, which adds a radio frequency bypass capability designed to support airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms requiring ultra-high bandwidth and data rates.

They 920th Reserve Airmen work side-by-side with the 45th Space Wing to maintain safety on the range for each rocket that launches from here. Last night they cleared a 60-mile stretch of the Range over the Atlantic Ocean of mariners to keep them out of harm's way beneath the rocket launch path.

As a combat-search-and-rescue unit, the Airmen are trained to provide search and rescue services in humanitarian and combat environments. Supporting launches is no different. Lt. Col. Robert Haston, 920th Pave Hawk pilot, said to maintain safety, "we'll stay airborne during a lunch as long as the launch window remains open. "

Haston flies many of the launch missions and said he's, "been up all night" before while a launch window remained open.

"The 920th Rescue Wing is proud to work this important Air Force launch that will play a role in our nation's defense. It's an honor to be a part of such a vital mission. We will continue to provide launch support for all launches while maintaining our busy overseas deployment schedule," said Col. Jeffrey Macrander, 920th RQW Wing commander.

The next Air Force launch from CCAFS is scheduled for February, when the Air Force will launch the first satellite of the Mobile User Objective System, which will provide enhanced capabilities for mobile military users.

The wing will also support SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch for NASA in March.

"We are honored to have worked closely with our Air Force and mission partners to enable today's successful launch of the WGS-4 satellite. WGS-4 will provide important capabilities to the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines protecting our freedoms around the world," said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Mission Operations. "This mission begins the most aggressive launch campaign in the history of the EELV program, with nine national security and two NASA launches scheduled this year."