4th SLS assures launch safety, success

The Mobile Service Tower (MST) is rolled back at Space Launch Comlex-6 in preparation for launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV carrying the NROL-25 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office. (courtesy photo)

The Mobile Service Tower (MST) is rolled back at Space Launch Comlex-6 in preparation for launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV carrying the NROL-25 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office. (courtesy photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Throughout the launch process, a multitude of obstacles, whether they be logistical or economical, need to be hurdled before successfully entering space.

To attain this success, the 4th Space Launch Squadron facilitates the process through its tireless efforts and particular focus on mission assurance.

"The mission of the 4th SLS is to execute integrated launch operations to provide assured access to space - the ultimate high ground - by ensuring safe, secure, and successful launches," said Lt. Col. Eric Zarybnisky, 4th SLS commander. "We work hand-in-hand with members of the 30th Space Wing, Team Vandenberg, the Space and Missile Systems Center, United Launch Alliance, and our spacecraft customers to assure mission success."

For the 4th SLS, teamwork is one of the key components contributing to its success.

"Along with open communication and technical acumen, teamwork forms the foundation of our mission assurance role," said Zarybnisky. "Within the 4th SLS, my Technical Assurance Flight, Mission Integration Flight, and Mission Support Flight work together to ensure the right people, with the right skills and training, are available to perform our vital mission assurance role. In addition, we forge relationships across multiple organizations to support the demands of the launch mission. We are fortunate to work with an amazing team of military, civilian, and contractor personnel who are all supremely focused on making the mission happen. It is this sense of teamwork that allows our nation assured access to space."

Another important facet of the preparation is the open dialogue held between launch mission managers and commanders to ensure launch conditions are going smoothly.

"There are several high-level reviews leading up to a launch, and launch mission managers brief the 14th Air Force commander and Space and Missiles Center commander on launch vehicle and infrastructure status on behalf of the 4th SLS," said Capt. Albert Vasso, 4th SLS launch mission manager. "While we continue to relay information to all parties involved until liftoff, when the inevitable last-minute troubleshooting occurs, an LMM's importance intensifies as information needs to get out quickly, accurately, and to the right people."

The LMM acts as a buffer to alleviate any concerns voiced by those involved with the launch, and with their expertise, solve problems that others won't have to stress about.

"As an LMM, I'm an information broker tying together the key players in the launch campaign to make sure things don't slip through the cracks," said Vasso. "I'm the focal point for all issues affecting the launch vehicle and its support infrastructure, and I ensure concerns expressed by the launch vehicle contractor, payload customer, and the Air Force are understood by all parties. This requires judgment to determine which issues are important enough to elevate, a decent amount of personal networking, and a 'mile-wide, inch-deep' knowledge of launch vehicle and launch support systems. Without LMMs as a buffer, we'd have multitudes of engineers and commanders wasting valuable time trying to understand, communicate, and solve these problems on their own before launch."

With a firm grasp on their various roles during launch operations, the 4th SLS maintains mission success and assurance - at all times.

"The 4th Space Launch Squadron is the eyes and ears of the 30th Space Wing and the Space and Missile Systems Center," said Zarybnisky. "Our mission assurance technicians oversee critical booster and ground support equipment procedures to ensure smooth processing and to report any anomalies. Our responsible engineers provide technical supervision, analysis of any deviations from nominal processing, and integrated risk assessments. Our launch mission managers and facilities and infrastructure team ensure all booster processing and launch operations are coordinated across the base and supported accordingly. Our Mission Support Flight ensures the other members of the squadron have the training and equipment they need to accomplish the mission."