Shuttle Support

It’s not just NASA that works to generate space shuttle launches. The Air Force team has assets assigned from air patrols to search and rescue and launch range support. Before and during the Nov. 14 launch of space shuttle Endeavour, the Continental US NORAD Region and Air Forces Northern maintained airspace control and manning for any potential search-and-rescue scenario. CONR boss, Maj. Gen. Hank Morrow, who noted the shuttle’s position as a “high-visibility national asset,” employed F-15s from the 60th Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB, Fla., to redirect four aircraft that had strayed into the restricted airspace. CONR also sent the Joint-Based Expeditionary Connectivity Center team to Cape Canaveral to provide integrated air defense command and control. An Air Force team, including weather specialists and surveillance control and range control officers, began work 90 days before launch. During the launch, the Air Force range control officer acts as the liaison between NASA and the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base. The wing’s range team can “stop the countdown” for safety reasons or if mandatory requirements aren’t met, said Mike Gawel, space shuttle program support manager for the 1st Range Operations Squadron. (CONR report by MSgt. Jerry Harlan; Patrick report by A1C David Dobrydney)