Historic last satellite launches
By 2nd Space Warning Squadron and, 2nd Space Warning Squadron
/ Published November 19, 2007
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- A dedicated team of space professionals here marked the end of a 36-year era when the last of 22 Defense Support Program satellites was sent into space Nov. 10.
Flight 23 was the last DSP satellite produced, and it was launched with Buckley's Mission Control Station as flight control and a hand-selected group of personnel from the 460th Operations Group and DSP Space Program Office at the helm.
While the primary DSP mission has traditionally fallen under the 2nd Space Warning Squadron here, involvement in the launch and Early-On Orbit Testing process is new to the MCS. The testing process verifies all spacecraft subsystems and payloads are working properly prior to turning it over for operational use, and the process lasts approximately 30 days.
EOT is operated out of the Launch and Anomaly Resolution Center in the MCS, which was recently upgraded for the team's Flight 23 EOT rehearsals.
For those involved, Flight 23 preparation required special training, nine robust exercises, three integrated crew exercises with Cape Canaveral and three demanding launch rehearsals.
Capt. Carman Henry was a Space Vehicle Operations Director for Flight 23, leading testing operations for the satellite once it was in space. She said providing launch support for Flight 23 allowed her to see first-hand what the MCS is capable of, and was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"Being the EOT lead for the MCS has been the highlight of my Air Force career. It was a phenomenal opportunity to work with such a great team and I have learned so much," she said.
Another historic element of the launch was the vehicle that took it into space. Most DSP satellites have been launched on Titan IV launch vehicles, but Flight 23 was the first operational military satellite program to launch on Boeing's new Delta IV Heavy Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle.
In 1991, the 1st Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base began a new era for the DSP by assuming all DSP EOT responsibilities with the launch of Flight 16. The 1st SOPS has launched the last seven DSP satellites.
In August 2006, due to personnel and mission area restructuring, the 1st SOPS officially stood down from the DSP mission. Subsequently, the 460th Space Wing and
2nd SWS assumed all satellite command and control responsibilities for the DSP constellation, including the Flight 23 launch and EOT.
The Defense Support Program has been around since November 1970 and continues to provide on-time, reliable missile warning data to warfighters around the globe.