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By Jennifer Green-Lanchoney, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 06, 2020
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Minotaur IV rocket launches from Space Launch Complex-8 here Thursday, April 22, 2010. A similar rocket is scheduled to launch from SLC-8 Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011. (Courtesy Photo)
Tech. Sgt. Joseph Lecureux, 2nd Space Launch Squadron NCO in charge of space launch maintenance, carries hardware lifting slings for rocket motor movement July 14, 2017, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The 2nd SLS is home to the Space Force’s only hands-on space lift mission in support of the Minotaur launch vehicle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Wear)
The 2nd Space Launch Squadron Space Cowboys ensure safe movement of Minotaur rocket motors. The 2nd SLS can launch a Minotaur rocket from launch complexes at different locations across the U.S. to include, Vandenberg AFB, Kodiak Launch Complex in Ala., Wallops Flight Facility in Va., and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Fla. (Courtesy photo)
Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Airmen have been breaking down boundaries since the base’s first launch in 1958 and continue that charge no matter the circumstances.
The 2nd Space Launch Squadron is home to the Space Force’s only hands-on space lift mission in support of the Minotaur launch vehicle. The Airmen who support this vital mission have been dubbed ‘Space Cowboys.’
“The Space Cowboys support unique missions,” said Tech. Sgt. Joseph LeCureux, 2nd SLS NCO in charge of space launch maintenance. “We have the capability to launch from four different locations across the U.S., which provides launch orbit flexibility to payload customers.”
According to LeCureux, the Airmen assigned to the 2nd SLS can launch a Minotaur rocket from launch complexes at different locations across the U.S. to include, Vandenberg AFB, Kodiak Launch Complex in Ala., Wallops Flight Facility in Va., and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Fla.
The team supports launch missions across the U.S. with coordination and management uniquely at Vandenberg AFB.
“We are the only expeditionary small-lift team in the Space Force that has the important responsibility of handling, transporting and stacking live rocket motors,” said 1st Lt. Cheyenne Jones, 2nd SLS launch mission integrator. “We are still preparing for upcoming missions during this pandemic. We have a very fluid schedule with dates always moving, so it is imperative that we maintain a level of preparedness at all times.”
Vandenberg’s Space Cowboys are mission ready as they plan for an upcoming launch that will support national security.
“This coronavirus has not impacted our mission readiness capabilities. Though the means of communication may have changed, we keep in close contact with the appropriate agencies to keep our timeline on track,” said Jones. “We are working on an upcoming mission that will provide important command and control surveillance abilities directly to the warfighter.”
While teleworking isn’t ideal, the team is implementing the appropriate safety measures to prepare vehicles and equipment to support upcoming missions, which includes scheduling repairs, weight testing equipment, and performing periodic checks.
Despite teleworking processes and regular operation changes, the 2 SLS Space Cowboys are making the mission happen, as they have two scheduled Minotaur launches slated for the end of 2020 at the Wallops Flight Facility.
“The Minotaur mission provides the Department of Defense a proven reliable small lift capability critical to maintaining assured access to space,” said Jones. “The Space Cowboys remain on watch, even in our darkest hours.”