by By Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Larlee
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
11/27/2013 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Even
with all the advancements mankind has made, storms like Hurricane
Katrina and Hurricane Sandy have proven just how vulnerable we can be to
the wrath of Mother Nature. Advanced and accurate information about the
path of these storms can be the difference between life and death.
Unfortunately, the information available to meteorologists to track
storms in North America has been limited. NASA has been working to
combat this problem by creating the Global Precipitation Measurement
Satellite. A major hurdle in the process was transporting the 57,000
pound satellite and its container from the United States to where it
will be launched from in Japan.
That was just the job for a Team Dover C-5M Super Galaxy and a motivated
aircrew from the 512th Airlift Wing, who delivered the state of the art
satellite Nov. 24, 2013, to Kitakyushu Airport in Japan.
Jean Manall, NASA project support transportation manager, said it was no
easy task but the Air Force Reserve Airmen performed admirably.
"Everything was great, I don't have a bad thing to say about the great
work these professionals did to make this mission happen," she said.
"Every last one of them down to the newest Airman are highly capable."
Manall is no stranger to the Air Force having served 25 years herself
and retiring as a chief master sergeant. She said she enjoys the
opportunity to work with the Air Force and was glad that leadership
accepted the mission.
The crew was composed of pilots, flight engineers and loadmasters from
the 709th Airlift Squadron and crew chiefs from the 512th Maintenance
Master Sgt. Jeremy Lee, 709th AS loadmaster, was a member on two previous test loads to ensure the C-5M was up to the task.
"The weight combined with the size was going to present some
challenges," said the Cuba, N.Y., native. "My biggest concern was the
top clearance. At some points during the load there would be only be
about an inch of clearance. We had to take it slow to ensure we didn't
damage the equipment or the aircraft."
With 5,600 flight hours as a loadmaster, Lee's experience was vital to
the loading of the satellite Nov. 20, 2013, at Joint Base Andrews, Md.
The delicate operation took 8 hours as the satellite was winched
inch-by-inch slowly into the aircraft.
Loadmasters worked hand-in-hand with NASA engineers during the load.
Even though the two groups used different terminology, it didn't take
long for them to get on the same sheet of music, said Lee. Once the
satellite was in place in the cargo compartment, great attention was
paid to ensuring it was properly secured.
Lee said if the satellite would have broken loose it would have been a catastrophic event for the aircraft and the aircrew.
This called for a steady hand at the controls during flight said Capt.
Todd Mullen, 709th AS pilot and the aircraft commander for the mission.
"The delicacy of the cargo required stable flying and very smooth
landings," he said. "It was definitely one of the more unique missions I
have ever been a part of."
The Global Precipitation Measurement, or GPM, mission is an
international network of satellites that provide the next-generation
global observations of rain and snow. Building upon the success of the
Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, the GPM concept centers on the
deployment of a core satellite carrying an advanced radar/radiometer
system to measure precipitation from space and serve as a reference
standard to unify precipitation measurements from a constellation of
research and operational satellites. Through improved measurements of
precipitation globally, the mission will help to advance our
understanding of Earth's water and energy cycle and improve forecasting
of extreme events that cause natural hazards and disasters.
In addition to being heavy and large, the satellite also required the
aircraft to be powered at all times, because the cargo compartment had
to be climate controlled.
After being diverted to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the flying crew
chiefs were required to stay with the aircraft for 12-hour shifts to
keep the aircraft powered while the mission was delayed two days due to
Senior Airman Kristy Foley, 512th MXG crew chief, said the extra hours were hard but worth it in the end.
"I just have the mindset of doing whatever needs to be done to complete
the mission," said the native of West Grove, Pa. "This was an
interesting mission for everyone involved because of the extra
communication needed with the NASA personnel and the extra hours
everybody put in."
It was the first ever mission for Senior Airman Travis Shea,709th
Airlift Squadron loadmaster student. He said it was a great way to start
off his career as a loadmaster.
"It was a great learning opportunity and just an awesome experience,"
said the native of Aiea, Hawaii. "That was interesting to watch, but I
was more interested in watching the loadmasters and learning as much as I
could. It just reinforced to me that I picked the right unit to join."
Lee said the one variable that worried him was the flightline in Japan
and he was relieved when there were no issues unloading the satellite.
"I was probably happier than the NASA people when we safely unloaded,"
he said. "I am really proud of our team and I think we worked well
together and overcame a lot of obstacles."
The satellite is scheduled to be launched in late February.