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The Cape, Chapter 2, Section 2

TITAN and Shuttle Military Space Operations

Launch Squadron Supervision of Military Space Operations in the 1990s

So much for the basic organization of military space operations at the Cape. At this point we may ask, "how were military space operations supervised at the Cape?" For a constructive answer to that question, we must rely on launch and spacecraft agency training aids after military space operations were transferred to AFSPACECOM. (As a result of the organizational continuity mentioned earlier, it is reasonable to assume that the space launch squadrons' operating instructions and the TITAN CTF and Spacecraft Operations Squadron self-study guides were derived from earlier practices and formalized.) The training aids give us a brief but detailed look into the world of military space operations.8

The 1st and 3rd Space Launch Squadron commanders had overall responsibility for launch operations in their respective squadrons, but they relied on a highly trained and educated team of officers and non-commissioned officers to conduct day-to-day operations at the Cape. Each squadron's Space Launch Operations Controllers (SLOCs) acted as the Air Force's on-scene representatives during booster processing operations, and they ensured safety and security standards were maintained and proper procedures were followed to process launch vehicles and analyze any problems that surfaced during the course of operations. The SLOCs were authorized to stop operations any time procedures, safety, or security standards were violated. In the event of an accident, the SLOCs took action to minimize injuries and equipment damage. They also preserved evidence of the mishap until relieved by proper authority.9

Systems Engineers (SEs) performed a variety of technical roles in both squadrons. They reviewed electronic and mechanical hardware modifications to hydraulic, pneumatic and propellant systems, structures and ordnance. They monitored individual contractor actions as they occurred, and they reviewed and approved highly complicated procedures ahead of time. Their duties included participation in engineering "walkdowns" (led by McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics launch operations managers) to detect vehicle damage and improper hardware installation at the launch pads. During the walkdowns, SEs reported any discrepancies they detected immediately, and they followed up with the appropriate company's engineering managers to resolve any problems that could not be corrected on the spot. Individual SEs were also tasked to serve as Vehicle Engineers (VEs) for each launch vehicle. Vehicle Engineers monitored the status of all test procedures, vehicle problems, site concerns and ground equipment issues. The senior VE briefed launch vehicle status at the Launch Readiness Review and tasked SEs to resolve technical problems. He also provided the engineering "go/no-go" recommendation to the Launch Controller (LC) on launch day.10

Countdown operations were among the most crucial activities in the entire launch preparation process, and the 1st Space Launch Squadron's officials played important roles on the Air Force/McDonnell Douglas launch team responsible for those countdown sequences. The Squadron's portion of the team consisted of a Launch Director (LD), a Launch Controller (LC), a Launch Operations Manager (LOM), SLOCs, a Facility Operations Manager (FOM), a Booster Countdown Controller (BCC), SEs, a Facility Anomaly Chief (FAC) and an Anomaly Team Chief. (See figures 39 and 40 for team duty locations on launch day.) The Launch Director reported directly to the Mission Director (MD) and commanded the launch crew through its prelaunch, launch, postlaunch and launch abort/scrub activities. The Launch Controller, Anomaly Team Chief and Launch Weather Officer reported to the Launch Director. The Launch Director authorized continuation of the countdown following built-in holds in the countdown, and he also made the final launch vehicle go/no-go recommendation to the Mission Director before launch.11

The Launch Controller controlled operations at Space Launch Complex 17 during countdown preparations, terminal countdown and the period the site was secured following countdown. The LC received status reports from McDonnell Douglas' Launch Conductor and other members of the Squadron's launch crew. Given the length of a typical DELTA II countdown, there were actually two LCs for each DELTA II mission: the first shift LC was on duty from the initial launch day crew brief through completion of initial checklist items. The second shift LC relieved the first shift LC and remained on duty until the launch complex was secured from countdown. On either shift, the LC was responsible for making sure the team was ready to move ahead through key milestones in the checklist. The LCs approved deviations in procedure, and they coordinated the team's reaction to local weather conditions and flight and ground system problems.12

The Launch Operations Manager provided contact between the LC in the blockhouse and SLOCs on the launch pad. In essence, that duty involved receiving and reporting pad and vehicle status to the LC before terminal countdown. The LOM verified the launch complex's readiness for launch operations. This included the complex's voice communications capability, and its closed circuit television and camera coverage of the launch.13

The Facility Operations Manager was responsible for the launch complex's readiness (e.g., towers, fire control systems, electrical power, generators, fuel tanks, water systems and other support items.) The Launch Base Services (LBS) contractor assigned to the complex reported to the FOM, and the FOM controlled that contractor's operations on the pad, except for pad safety. The FOM verified the facility's readiness to support the Mobile Service Tower's rollback and the site's closeout before terminal countdown.14

For countdown operations, the Mission Vehicle Engineer (VE) was selected to be the launch team's Booster Countdown Controller (BCC) because he possessed the most comprehensive knowledge of the technical aspects of the launch vehicle's processing history (except for third stage and payload systems). The BCC controlled the Squadron's engineering team and ensured problems detected by the SEs on that team were brought to the attention of the Anomaly Team Chief and the Launch Controller. The SEs supervised the following operations during the countdown:15

1. First stage propellant loading.

2. Second stage propellant and pneumatic tank pressurization.

3. Launch vehicle and ground support equipment electrical systems (assigned to two SEs).

4. Third stage electrical systems.

5. Solid rocket motor, first and second stage pneumatic thruster pressure and launch vehicle air-conditioning (assigned to two SEs).

Figure 39: Launch Vehicle Data Center
Figure 40: Mission Director Center

The Facility Anomaly Chief served as the Squadron's focal point for launch problems involving equipment and systems maintained by the LBS contractor (i.e., Johnson Controls World Services, Inc.). The FAC received countdown status from LBS contractor personnel and the Facility Operations Manager, and he reported technical concerns to the Anomaly Team Chief. The FAC was responsible for Space Launch Complex 17's electrical power, searchlights, pad deluge systems and air-conditioning and ventilation systems.16

The Squadron Chief Engineer served as the Anomaly Team Chief (ATC) for each launch vehicle. As such, the ATC was the single point of contact for vehicle problems. He evaluated the information he received from the FAC and reported problem solutions to the Launch Director. The ATC also reported on wind factors affecting the launch vehicle's trajectory, its structural load margins and guidance control margins.17

The 3rd Space Launch Squadron's launch team at Complex 36 was organized in the same manner as the 1st Space Launch Squadron's launch team on Complex 17. The Launch Director was in charge of ATLAS II countdown activities (e.g., prelaunch, postlaunch and launch abort/scrub activities), and he authorized continuation of the countdown through the built-in holds. He provided a final go/no-go recommendation to the Mission Director. The Launch Controller controlled countdown activities and reported to the Launch Director. Like their counterparts in the 1st Space Launch Squadron, the ATLAS II launch team's SLOCs conducted tower walkdowns, monitored the Mobile Service Tower's rollback, supervised launch pad closeout tasks, oversaw launch preparations by the contractor and reported status back to the Launch Controller. In similar fashion, the 3rd Space Launch Squadron Vehicle Engineer served as the Booster Countdown Controller for the mission.18

The TITAN CTF did not achieve full squadron status until 14 April 1994, but it began operating as the Launch Vehicle Directorate under the 45th Operations Group in the summer of 1992. The Directorate's two principal branches were the Operations Branch and the Vehicle Engineering Branch. The Operations Branch managed TITAN IV field operations, and it controlled TITAN IV ground hardware. The Vehicle Engineering Branch provided technical direction for flight hardware (e.g., TITAN IV core stages, solid rocket motors and payload fairings), and its CENTAUR and IUS engineering sections supervised CENTAUR and IUS upper stage operations.19

Roles and responsibilities in the Launch Vehicle Directorate were organized along the lines of duties in the 1st and 3rd Space Launch Squadrons. The TITAN Launch Director (LD) had overall responsibility for planning and conducting launch operations. He received information from the Launch Controller (LC) and the upper stage Vehicle Manager (VM), and he made the final go/no-go recommendation to the Mission Director (MD). The TITAN Launch Controller (LC) exercised operational control over the entire launch vehicle, including the upper stage. The CENTAUR Vehicle Manager (CVM) supervised CENTAUR operations. Through the CENTAUR Test Team, the CVM provided the final upper stage launch readiness recommendation to the LC. In similar fashion, the IUS Vehicle Manager (IVM) supervised IUS operations and served as the IUS team chief. The IVM was responsible for booster/IUS and payload/IUS activities, and he reported IUS status during the launch countdown.20

Figure 41: Blockhouse 17 Pre-Launch Alert

The Launch Vehicle Operations Controller (LVOC) supervised day-to-day TITAN booster activities including schedules, testing, hardware removal/replacement and discrepancy reporting. As the launch vehicle team chief, the LVOC reported engineering status to the LC during major tests and launch countdowns. TITAN SLOCs monitored TITAN operations to ensure proper test discipline, security and safety. Like their 1st and 3rd space launch squadron counterparts, the TITAN SLOCs could stop operations whenever they detected an unsafe or improper operation. They minimized injuries and equipment damage in the event of an accident, and they preserved mishap evidence until they were relieved by proper authority.21

The TITAN Vehicle Engineer (VE) was responsible for assessing the technical readiness of the TITAN IV vehicle and its associated ground equipment. The VE provided vehicle status updates to the upper stage vehicle manager (CVM or IVM), the Launch Controller and the Launch Director. Systems Engineers were assigned to oversee various launch vehicle systems, and they provided the VE with the specific information he needed to form his assessments and make his reports.22

Figure 42: Hangar AE Control Center
February 1991

The Cape: Miltary Space Operations 1971-1992
by Mark C. Cleary, Chief Historian
45 Space Wing Office of History
1201 Minuteman Ave, Patrick AFB, FL 32925

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