WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Space launches may soon be an almost weekly sight on Florida's Space Coast.
As the need for space lift grows globally, partnerships between the Air Force, other government agencies and the commercial space industry are enhancing the 45th Space Wing's vision of remaining the world's premier gateway to space.
With a mission of delivering assured space launch, range and combat capabilities for the nation, the space wing and its Eastern Range assets provide a vast network of radar, telemetry and communications instruments to facilitate the safe launch of all Department of Defense National Security Space, NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and commercial operations.
According to Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, the 45th SW commander, the wing is developing plans to enable a launch a week to meet the growing demand of national, civil and commercial organizations to put capabilities on orbit. Today, the wing is on track to launch 30 times this year and has no plans of slowing down.
One key initiative in reducing the time between launches is the implementation of the Autonomous Flight Safety System. The system enables the 45th SW to support more launches by expediting range turnaround times with more stringent safety standards, all while cutting launch costs. However, increasing launch capacity is only one of many achievements at the 45 SW.
Over the past several years, the wing partnered with the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and NASA to activate a new recovery site for the unmanned, reusable X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle. This partnership, along with the program's renovations to the former Space Shuttle Orbiter Processing Facilities, allowed the OTV to land at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on May 7, 2017 after a record-breaking 718 days on orbit.
"The Air Force provides space capabilities to protect the country. Increasingly, the American people and commerce depend on Air Force satellites for GPS navigation, timing signals for banking and ATM machines, and communications," said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, "The Air Force will continue to work with partners to drive innovation."
The Air Force's partnership with NASA is not a one-way street. Col. Jack D. Fischer's arrival on the International Space Station in April showcased not only the Air Force's accomplishments in space, but also its partnership with NASA. During his four-month long stay, Fischer is assigned to Expedition 51, a multi-national team tasked with conducting more than 250 biological, biotechnology, physical and Earth-science experiments, gathering information that may one day lead to a mission to Mars.
In March, the wing launched the ninth Boeing-built Wideband Global SATCOM satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. WGS satellites play an integral part in the strategic and tactical coordination of military operations. This satellite will provide the United States and six allied nations with increased communications capabilities to prevent, protect against and respond to attacks.
The WGS-9 satellite was funded through an agreement between the United States, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia. Each partner country gains access to the capabilities provided by the full WGS system, which includes flexible and secure communication transmissions in the X- and Ka-band frequencies.
"The men and women of the 45th Space Wing and Air Force Space Command epitomize American ingenuity and innovation,” said Under Secretary of the Air Force Lisa Disbrow. “Through them, we are delivering safe, reliable, effective, and efficient space launch for our nation and this excellent Air Force team is key to our ability to meet rapidly growing demands for launch services."
Air Force space operations have been instrumental in national security power projection in five key space mission areas - support, application, control, enhancement and situational awareness. Through these accomplishments, the 45th SW and the Air Force continue to protect and defend America's advantage in the space warfighting domain.
"Since 1954, Air Force leaders and space warriors have been at the cutting edge of technology. From Bennie Schriever, who we acknowledge as the pioneer of military space, through larger than life heroes like Kevin Chilton and Bob Kehler and Susan Helms and now John Hyten and Jay Raymond ... we have consistently broken barriers in space technology. We have and will own the high ground," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.
On May 17, 2017, Wilson and Goldfein were accompanied by Gen. John Raymond, the AFSPC commander and Space and Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, the Missile Systems Center commander when they testified before Congress on the future of the U.S. space policy and posture.