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By Senior Airman Aubree Owens, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 14, 2020
Mission partners and base members extract a Delta IV Heavy booster from a United Launch Alliance barge, known as the RocketShip, April 5, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The barge docked at Vandenberg AFB to offload Delta IV Heavy boosters for an upcoming launch scheduled to occur later this year. The barge operation is a vital first step to executing the mission of assured access to space. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aubree Owens)
Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Ward, 2nd Space Launch Squadron mission assurance technician, gives a pre-mission brief to Airmen who will offload Delta IV Heavy boosters from the RocketShip barge April 5, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The barge docked at Vandenberg AFB to offload Delta IV Heavy boosters for an upcoming launch scheduled to occur later this year. The barge operation is a vital first step to executing the mission of assured access to space. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aubree Owens)
Team Vandenberg supported the successful launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload from Space Launch Complex-6 here, Saturday, Jan. 19, at 11:10 am PST. (U.S. Air Force photo by Michael Peterson)
Across the many units and flights at Vandenberg Air Force Base, the Airmen continue to accomplish the mission to provide assured access to space. While each unit at Vandenberg AFB is important to the mission, there is only one that can provide mission assurance to Atlas and Delta launches: the Mission Assurance Flight within the 2nd Space Launch Squadron.
In August of 2019, the 2nd Space Launch Squadron officially reactivated, following the inactivation and merger of the 1st Air and Space Test Squadron and the 4th Space Launch Squadron. The reactivation consolidated launch operations, simplified processes, and provided an effective work flow with commercial partners and new entrant launch service providers.
The 2nd SLS is comprised of five flights carrying out diverse mission sets, one of which is the Mission Assurance Flight. This flight is split into two sections, the Atlas and Delta teams. Both sections ensure the 30th Space Wing’s mission is successful during their respective launches.
“The core mission of my flight is ensuring mission success by providing world-class mission assurance to safeguard the nation’s assured access to space from the Western Range,” said Capt. Maher Mehio, 2nd SLS Atlas and Delta mission assurance flight commander.
The Mission Assurance Flight consists of 15 engineers and mission assurance technicians. Each engineer specializes in analyzing launch preparation procedures and building processes for the qualified technicians to utilize in order to ensure safe operations.
“Our flight is in charge of providing daily oversight for all launch vehicle processing activities,” said Mehio. “From the minute a vehicle arrives at Vandenberg AFB, to the day we launch.”
Providing guidance and reassurance to the mission doesn’t only take place during the day of launch. There are numerous responsibilities the members of Mission Assurance Fight are tasked with, long before receiving a rocket.
It begins with obtaining procedures from the launch service provider. Next, the members create the operations plan in preparation to receive the launch hardware before final on-site processing and integration ahead of launch day. The job isn’t complete until the payload is delivered successfully to its intended injection point on orbit.
“The Airmen that are in this flight come to us with a background in a “no-fail mission” mindset,” said Mehio. “That makes them a perfect fit here in the launch business where that attention to detail and no-fail mentality is a must.”
Recently, the Delta team completed a six-day task of offloading Delta-IV Heavy rocket body parts from a United Launch Alliance barge, known as the RocketShip. Members of the flight and mission partners of Vandenberg AFB successfully offloaded and transported the rocket parts to a Horizontal Integration Facility where the hardware will be stored for further processing.
“The team successfully receiving the Delta-IV Heavy hardware is a critical step and the first of many milestones of this launch campaign” said 1st Lt. Jasmine Toye, 2nd SLS mission integration manager for barge offload.
The Mission Assurance Flight is in an integral unit under the 2nd SLS, helping to safeguard assured access to space through streamlined operations to help make the mission happen.