QA flight ensures launch safety

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shane M. Phipps
  • 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
This is part one of a four part series on jobs critical to supporting launch operations.

When thinking of any space launch, it's not uncommon for glorified images of astronauts making their way to their space shuttle, or controllers commencing a dramatic final countdown to formulate.

However, for VAFB launches it often involves many unbeknownst individuals working harmoniously, like the members of the 30th Contracting Squadron's quality assurance flight, to ensure a successful launch.

"We are the eyes and ears for the Air Force and the public," said John Slinkard, 30th CONS quality assurance specialist. "The Air Force, like any other branch, has a finite budget to work within and we verify that the contractors are providing the products and services that are contractually agreed upon."

Although few are aware of the flight's vital contribution to launch operations, without QA serious problems would be inevitable.

"We get a delegation telling us what is expected," explained George Matye, 30th CONS quality assurance flight chief. "Anytime the contractor departs off their process, or procedure, they have to stop and get our approval because any time they deviate from their contract someone from the government has to step in and approve it."

In addition to confirming the contractors are following all rules and regulations during pre-launch operations, the QA team also maintains a historical log containing a record of all tasks.

"We document all our findings into a database," said Matye. "Gathering this information is important because it evaluates the contractors' history."

Despite being a small flight of only seven dedicated individuals, their combined résumés boast decades of launch experience.

"During my 25 years at VAFB, I have been involved in a number of missions with a myriad of different payloads," stated Slinkard. "In the end, our primary objective is to provide the Range and other customers with the confidence that procedures and processes are being followed to assure mission success."