by Maj. Don Kerr
920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
8/8/2013 - CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- The
U.S. Air Force launched its sixth high-capacity communications
satellite into orbit last night strapped to a Medium+ Delta IV rocket as
Airmen and HH-60G Pave Hawks from the 920th Rescue Wing safeguarded the
To view a slide show of the launch support, click here.
Shortly before dusk yesterday, two rescue helicopters took off from
Patrick AFB in Cocoa Beach on its mission in support of Cape Canaveral
Air Force Station. The 920th patrols the hazard or "safe" zone
surrounding the launch pad to ensure boaters are a safe distance from
potentially falling rocket debris.
"The 920th's primary mission is combat rescue, but our role in this
unique mission is public safety," said Col. Jeffrey Macrander, 920th RQW
commander. "Our job is to clear the launch hazard zone underneath the
trajectory of the rocket, just in case there is a malfunction."
At 8:29 p.m. EDT, the four strap-on solid rocket motors and five-meter
payload fairing of the Delta IV lit up the night sky of the Eastern
Range leaving a bright trail of billowy smoke in its wake as it raced
toward space. To ensure continued safety on the range, 920th Airmen
remained airborne while the rocket dashed into space.
These things we do that others may live, is the creed Rescue Wing Airmen
live by when carrying out their mission of saving lives, allowing them
the benefit of having a front-row seat to dangerous, yet vital missions
like combat rescue and rocket launches.
The rocket contained yet another satellite to support the Wideband
Global SATCOM constellation, the nation's next-generation wideband
satellite communications system. The satellite will provide additional
wideband SATCOM coverage for U.S. defense forces and International
partners, to include Australia, which supported the cost of the sixth
spacecraft under a partnership agreement.
"Our public safety mission out at the Cape is unique - nobody else does
it," said Macrander. "We've enjoyed a strong relationship for twenty
years now with the 45th Space Wing and Air Force Space Command to
provide those resources."
According to Los Angeles AFB, Boeing will begin on-orbit testing of the
satellite soon to verify nominal performance and prepare the satellite
for operational use. Ultimately, the satellite will be controlled by the
3rd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever AFB, Colo. WGS-6 should
enter operations in early 2014.
"WGS is providing unparalleled global communications capabilities to
soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen for the United States, Australia,
Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and New Zealand," said
Charlotte Gerhart, chief, Wideband SATCOM Division, MILSATCOM
Wideband global SATCOM provides anytime, anywhere communication for the
warfighter through broadcast, multicast, and point to point connections.
WGS is the only military satellite communications system that can
support simultaneous X and Ka band communications.