5, 4, 3, 2, 1….Liftoff!
By Lt. Col. Brande Walton, 2nd Range Operations Squadron commander
/ Published April 08, 2014
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- There is something so exhilarating about a rocket launch... the thrill of the countdown, the tremendous rumble as if the earth was coming to an end, the beautiful plume of smoke as it enters the atmosphere and finally witnessing the second stage as it separates. It never gets old no matter how many times you've seen one. Throughout the years, I have played multiple roles at both the Eastern and Western Ranges. As a 45th Space Wing mission flight control officer on the Eastern Range, I sat on console and was responsible for public safety and flight control from countdown, liftoff, to end of mission. When I transitioned to the position of wing executive officer, I would play tourist and head over to the white sandy beaches of Florida to watch the launches with the locals. Now as the 2nd Range Operations Squadron commander on the Western Range, I view all launches inside the Western Range Operations Control Center or "The Rock" as I affectionately call it. The WROCC is the command and control hub of all ballistic, space and aeronautical operations originating from the Western Range. This control center is vital to a successful launch where everything from timing, optical tracking, range control, radar track data, and telemetry is processed and displayed.
It takes every member of Team Vandenberg (military, civilian, contractor, and local community) to execute our mission. Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, has been quoted as saying that it takes a million miracles coming together to make a launch successful. You, the men and women of Vandenberg, are a true testimony to that statement. On April 3, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket successfully launched from Space Launch Complex 3 with a Defense Meteorological Satellite Program payload. Because of the hard work and dedication from thousands of Team V professionals, we had our first successful launch of 2014!
Even after experiencing numerous launches, I still get excited for each and every one. As the clock counts down....10, 9, 8, 7... my heart still beats a little faster as the anticipation for liftoff draws closer. I remember watching launches on the news as a young adult and being intrigued and fascinated; however, there is nothing more invigorating than watching it live or feeling and hearing the rumble as it passes over. You too can experience that pulse-raising, blood-pumping feeling of anticipation, whether you guard a road block, operate a mission console, pull-up the live stream on your laptop, gather your family at Vandenberg's Rod and Gun Club viewing site or just watch from your own back yard.
As we continue to "Aim High," just remember it takes every member of Team V to reach 100 percent mission success!
Editor's note: What miracle were you? Do you have a photo of what you were doing on launch day? If you do, please send it to 30th Space Wing Public Affairs at 30SW.PA.firstname.lastname@example.org.