VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
Vandenberg’s 1st Air and Space Test Squadron provided support for a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch, here, Aug. 24.
With the help of the 1st ASTS, a Taiwanese Earth-imaging payload launched into orbit. The vehicle is designed to test out the country’s domestic aerospace manufacturing capability and collect a variety of black and white imagery of Earth.
“Our mission integrator worked directly with the SpaceX team and coordinated information, meetings, and various deliverables between SpaceX and the 30th Space Wing,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Helvey, 1st ASTS New Entrant Certification Team lead.
Throughout the launch process, the NECT gathered information for the Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, Calif.
“My job as NECT lead was to guide and enable my team as we navigated the New Entrant Certification process at the launch sites,” said Helvey. “We are the eyes and ears for the Space and Missile Systems Center, who own the NEC process as a whole. In addition to this, our team prepared to transfer SpaceX Fleet Surveillance and Mission Assurance to the 4th Space Launch Squadron.”
During launch day, the many responsibilities of the 1st ASTS boiled down to two primary purposes.
“There are two main purposes for supporting on launch day,” said Helvey. “The first is to support the wing commander by providing an independent technical assessment of the launch day activities with regard to resource protection. Second, we sit on console and observe the launch to maintain situational awareness on the fleet of Falcon 9’s, paying close attention to any changes or deviations in their processes.”
In addition to their launch day role, 1st ASTS personnel are also responsible for a number of other operations at Vandenberg.
“The 1st ASTS is responsible for launch site certification of new launch service providers, supporting X-37 recovery operations, and hands-on maintenance, handling, and transportation of small space lift boosters,” said Helvey.
The unique mission featured the quickest time between two Falcon launches, a feat accomplished thanks to a tireless effort from those involved.
“The Falcon 9 launch of FORMOSAT-5 was an incredible mission to be a part of,” said Capt. Kylie Prachar, 1st ASTS Launch Commander for the F9-40 Formosat-5 mission. “This was the first satellite manufactured and integrated entirely by Taiwan and it was also the fastest turn-around time between Falcon launches here at Space Launch Complex-4. Our Air Force team put in a lot of work to support the mission and provide Fleet Surveillance on behalf of the Space and Missile Systems Center.”
The 1st ASTS continues to be a critical piece to the Mission Assurance puzzle.
“Our squadron is working with the SMC, 30th Space Wing, and Launch Service Programs to plan and prepare for the future of commercial space lift,” said Helvey. “Our team is supporting the Falcon 9 NEC process through independent technical assessments. We’re building strong relationships through mission integration, and we are establishing a firm foundation for the future of Mission Assurance.”