Science and Technology News

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rescue Airmen support successful rocket launch

920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs

12/12/2012 - CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla.  -- Air Force Reserve combat-search-and-rescue Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., supported the successful classified launch of an United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the U.S. military's X-37B orbital space plane, Dec. 11 at 1:03 p.m. from launch Complex 41 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The Low Earth Orbit an X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle also known as OTV is beginning its second flight following refurbishment. Between April and December 2010 on the inaugural OTV launch, the OTV spent 224 days, 9 hours and 24 minutes in orbit.

A second OTV mission spent 468 days, 13 hours and 2 minutes on a voyage from March 2011 to this past June that circled the earth more than 7,000 times.

A combined team of military, government civilians and contractors from Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., and Cape Canaveral AFS provided vital support to this third OTV mission, including weather forecasts, launch and range operations, security, safety and public affairs.

Brig. Gen. Anthony Cotton, commander, 45th Space Wing, who also served as the Launch Decision Authority, said this was a very historic and important launch for the Air Force and the entire team should be commended for their first-rate, professional work that ensured another successful mission.

"We are indeed fortunate to have a very talented "launch team" that works so well together," Cotton said.

"The teamwork across Air Force Space Command and with our 'Team Patrick / Cape' mission partners made this launch a success and is another example of how our Air Force delivers assured space launch, range and combat capabilities for the nation," he added.

The X-37B provides a flexible "on-orbit laboratory" test environment to prove new technology and components in space, before those technologies are committed to operational satellite programs. Technologies on the vehicle are expected to make access to space more responsive and conducting experiments in space more affordable.

Upon command from the ground, the OTV autonomously re-enters the atmosphere, descends and lands horizontally on a runway located on Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

Rescue Wing Airmen who pilot the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter take to flight several hours before all scheduled launches from Cape Canaveral AFS to secure the Eastern Range. They patrol the stretch of the Atlantic Ocean beneath the launch trajectory ensuring no mariners veer into harm's way of potential rocket debris hazards.

Range clearing is one of the many tasks that the Airmen of the 920th RQW are charged with. The premier combat-search-and-rescue wing Airmen are trained to provide search and rescue services in humanitarian and combat environments.

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