Science and Technology News

Friday, August 9, 2013

Rescue Airmen support military communications satellite launch

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 hazard zone.

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 Directorate.

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.

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