Base prepares flightline for spacecraft landing
By Senior Airman Steve Bauer, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 17, 2010
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The 30th Civil Engineer Squadron finished a runway hardware retrofit construction detail at the base's flightline May 8 to accommodate the eventual landing of the Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle here.
"The experimental nature of the X-37B necessitated the urgency of the modifications in case of an unscheduled landing," said Lt. Col. Troy Giese, the Air Force's X-37B Systems Program Director.
Approximately 80 people from the 30th CES, 30th Launch Group, 581st Missile Maintenance Squadron, 30th Operations Support Squadron's airfield operations flight and Vandenberg's Training Device Design and Engineering Center replaced 658 plates along the flightline's centerline to increase the levelness of the airstrip.
"We really appreciate our partners at Vandenberg going the extra mile to ensure the success of the X-37B program," Colonel Giese said. "The landing of this experimental spacecraft is a major objective of the program and the hard work of the runway retrofit team means we can land when we need to."
Each of the contributing base agencies allowed for the promptness of the completion of the flightline construction.
"We were involved in everything from the development of the new plate design to fabrication and installation," said Mr. Dell Barritt, Vandenberg's TDDEC director. "The sheer number of plates and the time constraints were also huge factors. It was of major importance, not only to us, but to Vandenberg, the Air Force and Boeing. Everyone worked together as a team to ensure the runway was prepared for the safe return of the X-37B."
The X-37B is the U.S.'s newest and most advanced unmanned re-entry spacecraft. It can be transported to and from space to test satellite sensors, subsystems, components and associated technology.
"Although the X-37B project itself is a historic event, we were just glad to have the opportunity to help make it a success," Mr. Barritt said. "Any time we can provide support for any project, large or small, we're happy to help."
In addition, the planning and organization was something to behold and it was very well done, said Mr. Barritt. Planning for the construction effort was essential due to the specifics of the X-37B's landing configurations and the availability of the base's flightline. The construction crews worked three Saturdays during times of airstrip inactivity to modify the flightline for the spacecraft's unique landing wheel design.
"Going into the construction, we devised a plan so that no time was wasted throughout this project," said Mr. Dennis Pakulski, the 30th CES mission engineer chief. "The project was very organized and the synergy between the organizations was incredible. Planning definitely played a huge role in saving both time and money."
A project of this size and significance took the collaborative efforts of the engineer-led crews to successfully complete the flightline's plate replacement in the allotted time.
"Getting the runway ready to land this spacecraft was a lot of fun," Mr. Pakulski said. "It was good to see Team Vandenberg pull together as everyone did and I am really proud to have been a part of the whole thing. I don't think I have ever been a part of something this important and have it go as well as this project did."