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With operational acceptance complete, Western Range is ready for launch

The Western Range is back in the launch business following an operational acceptance decision held by the Operations Acceptance Board at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Aug. 18, 2016. The OAB – consisting of Grant, RGNext, Space & Missile Systems Center, 30th Communication Squadron, 2nd Range Operations Squadron, 30th Range Management Squadron, and 30th Space Wing safety – made the final call on range readiness after a downtime due to range systems relocation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Michael Peterson/Released)

The Western Range is back in the launch business following an operational acceptance decision held by the Operations Acceptance Board at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Aug. 18, 2016. The OAB – consisting of Grant, RGNext, Space & Missile Systems Center, 30th Communication Squadron, 2nd Range Operations Squadron, 30th Range Management Squadron, and 30th Space Wing safety – made the final call on range readiness after a downtime due to range systems relocation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Michael Peterson/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

The Western Range is back in the launch business following an operational acceptance decision held by the Operations Acceptance Board at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Aug. 18, 2016.

"It is exciting," said Col. Jennifer Grant, 30th Operations Group commander and OAB chair. "The team has invested a lot of time, energy and copious amounts of planning, coordination, and vested interest in ensuring a successful outcome."

Much of the coordination and teamwork was required due to the large scale of the project that led to the range downtime, which included the relocation of key range systems to a different building. The relocation required over 1,100 critical components of the operational range systems to be disconnected and reconfigured, many of which were decades old and had not been powered down in years – adding a layer of complexity to the move.

"Given the age and fragility of the range equipment, we have been fortunate to not have any major breaks or failures," said Grant. "I attribute that to planning and risk reduction measures employed by the government and contractor. Many of us expected there to be more complications and challenges than we encountered. The range equipment relocation, and its associated downtime, have been the number one priority for us during this last year. This is clearly one of the most highly visible, complex and unique operations I have been involved in to date, and the key to this successful process entering and exiting the range downtime on schedule was, is, and will continue to be, accountability, transparency, and frequent communication amongst all of the stakeholders."

With the range systems relocated and reconfigured, rigorous testing was then required to validate range capability for its various launch missions.

"Each system to be relocated was functionally tested at the box and system level before being disconnected to capture their baseline performance," said Martin Diaz, 30th OG technical director. "Once the systems were relocated the functional testing was repeated in order to evaluate any affects the move may have induced. Ultimately integration tests consisting of MM III, Atlas V and MDA mission scenarios were performed exercising the relocated systems interfaces and interoperability with the entire range enterprise to ensure readiness to support our launch manifest.”

Once testing was complete, the OAB – consisting of Grant, RGNext, Space & Missile Systems Center, 30th Communication Squadron, 2nd Range Operations Squadron, 30th Range Management Squadron, and 30th Space Wing safety – made the final call on range readiness.

With the greenlight on readiness and the passing of key at the operational acceptance ceremony, Vandenberg's Western Range is back in the launch business and its launch professionals are back to doing what they do best. As for Grant, whose signature now rests on the official acceptance document, completing this project has been a major accomplishment for all involved.

"I feel very thankful to have led and been a part of this historic activity, and grateful for the commitment and teamwork I witnessed as we moved through this last year – both in the time leading up to the range downtime period as well as the entire downtime itself," said Grant. "Now we are returning to our core mission of providing critical range and cyber capabilities for our Nation's launch, landing and test operations."