2nd ROPS ensures American air, space superiority

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Rojek
  • 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
(Editor's note: This is part two of a two-part story.) 

Once the scheduling is complete and the day of launch gets closer, the 2nd ROPS operators and contractors manning the instrumentation sites across the base begin their mission. The aerospace control officer and his fellow Airmen start with coordinating between the FAA and contracted assets to ensure the range is clear and ready for launch. The different services involved include the California Fish and Game, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association, Coast Guard, aerospace patrols and weather support aircraft. 

"As aerospace control officers, our main concern is public safety," said Senior Airman Adam Murphy, a 2nd ROPS aerospace control officer. "That's why we have these contracted boats, contracted aircraft ... making sure that the area's clear for launch." 

While Airman Murphy and his team stay in contact with these assets on the day of launch, the 2nd ROPS range operations commander ensures that the entire range is ready for launch. This person must coordinate with the aerospace control officers, range control officers, launch weather officers and mission flight control officers. Basically, the range operations commander is relied upon to see the big picture and make sure all the pieces are in place. 

"I take all the pieces of that information and create the big picture of how the range is, if we're 'go for launch' or 'not go for launch,'" said Capt. Nicole Bittle, the 2nd ROPS range operations commander. "I give that information to the operations director who relays that to the launch decision authority, and he gives the final go-for-launch." 

After the launch is complete, the job is not done. Post-operations processing of all requested data begin after the launch, taking up to 40 days. This of course must be scheduled so as not to conflict with other range operations, which in turn starts the whole process over again. 

"It's very easy to tell you just what the mission of the ROPS is, 'Execute command and control of the Western Range,' said Colonel Del Rosario. "There's a lot more involved in that. Our role is to ensure public safety and we provide a safe operating environment for anybody that wants to launch off the Western Range." 

The entire 2nd ROPS executed this mission well recently with the MDA interceptor launch. Each of the sections came together for a successful test launch, helping the MDA to better protect America. 

"Missile Defense Agency tests are our most challenging operations for the entire Range team and requires disciplined mission execution," said Colonel Del Rosario. "The professional operations team, consisting of approximately 250 contractors, government civilians and Airmen, executed superbly in operating range instrumentation, monitoring weather conditions in two separate launch locations and controlling the operations tempo to ensure a successful launch." 

A successful launch takes the efforts of an entire space wing, and the 2nd ROPS is doing their part to ensure the U.S. continues to have air and space superiority.