by SMC Public Affairs
2/19/2013 - LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- "Managing
space debris is part of the National Space Policy," said Capt. Raymond
Scholz, Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle System Safety Manager. In a
world where the benefits of space permeate almost every facet of our
lives, we must manage to keep that environment as clean and as safe as
possible, he explained.
Among many significant accomplishments, the Space and Missile Systems
Center's Launch and Range Systems Safety Team's work ensured safe
execution of the $1.5 billion Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Program
at the 30th Space Wing, Vandenberg AFB, Calif., and the 45th SW at
Patrick AFB, Fla. The team performed multiple mission assurance
activities to ensure the satellites made it to orbit, including
appropriate collision avoidance analysis (to reduce the risk of
collisions between the launch vehicles and orbiting objects) and safe
upper stage controlled re-entries.
Additionally, the team built the 2012 Exception to National Space
Policy/Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices (ODMSP) waiver
request package and achieved Secretary of Defense approval on the
waiver, allowing five launches to enhance satellite vehicle
constellations. Furthermore, the team optimized two mission profiles:
one mission became fully compliant with the ODMSP re-entry criteria, and
the other was optimized to reduce the disposed upper stage's orbital
life from 24 years to three months. These optimizations resulted in a
reduction of cumulative collision risk by 99 percent.
In light of these and other accomplishments, SMC/LR's safety team won
Air Force Space Command's Space Crew of Distinction Award and is now in
the running for the Air Force Chief of Safety's Space Safety Award.
Nomination implies that the individual or team "performed beyond normal
expectations of proficiency and/or performance" in contributing to space
LR's team also refined the strategy for ODMSP compliance from the
previous year's strategy by researching and adding additional
programmatic actions to resolve non-compliances. This included
researching mission and launch vehicle modifications that could
potentially achieve additional compliances. As this plan is improved and
implemented, the potential for leaving behind dangerous space debris is
reduced, thereby decreasing opportunities for collisions that could put
humans in space or our vital space capabilities at risk.
The team also developed and staffed nine launch waivers, two re-entry
approvals, and 10 radio frequency deconflictions necessary to permit
timely launches. Waivers were reviewed to ensure the contractor was
performing the appropriate safety mitigations to allow the launch.
Reentry approvals were reviewed to ensure the upper stage re-entered
safely and did not pose a major risk to the public when it impacted the
ocean. The team also constructed and staffed eight orbital space safety
reports to 14th Air Force (Vandenberg AFB, Calif.), ensuring proper risk
acceptance and allowing the launch of the eight satellite vehicles.
"LR is the vehicle provider and the conduit to meet this space
environment strategy," said Scholz. "They work in conjunction with the
Engineering Directorate to resolve any debris issues.
"After all," said Scholz, "we fly the satellite into orbit, so we have a
vested interest in making sure that what we're doing is safe not only
for the general public, but for space in general. That's how we come
into the picture."
The team also developed and implemented an improved analysis technique
which protects the International Space Station by ensuring a safe
separation of the upper stage's disposal orbit and the ISS's orbit to
ensure there are no collisions. NASA is studying further implementation
of this technique.
In this age of reduced resources, the team is nearing completion of
certification for a launch vehicle GPS tracking system, which would
allow for the reduction of ground-based tracking systems and reduce the
cost of range sources as it verifies the launch vehicle stays on course.
Should a mishap occur, this team is prepared with the high fidelity
recording effort they manage, capturing the launch in the early stages
so they can resolve anomalies quickly, ensure there are no repeats of
the anomalies in future missions, and promptly return to flight.
"We worked eight launches last year," said Captain Scholz. "There's a
lot of moving pieces that have to be completed before a launch happens.
And we did that eight times this year--a very busy OPSTEMPO to say the
least," said Scholz.
"It was certainly no easy task," said Maj. Erick Fonseca, Chief, Systems Integration Branch.
"I am proud of my folks. It is a team effort. They have a lot of
influence and credibility. That, in itself, is the essence [of their