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1 ASTS launches new mission assurance centers

1st Lt. Timothy Urista, Space and Missile Systems Center Engineering Launch Support System program manager, Victor Folk, ManTech program manager, Lt. Col. Kris Barcomb, 1st Air and Space Test Squadron commander, Capt. Megan Harkins, SpaceX mission integrator and FLSC project lead, Craig Cumberland, ManTech Systems Engineering and Integration contractor and lead project engineer, and Capt. Nathan Fisher, 1st ASTS mission support flight deputy commander, complete a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the finalized Falcon Launch Support Center, June 24, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The 1st ASTS recently completed a project on two launch support centers – the Falcon Launch Support Center and the Mission Assurance Readiness Site -- that will be key to posturing the 30th Launch Group to support future government missions launching on SpaceX rockets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert J. Volio/Released)

1st Lt. Timothy Urista, Space and Missile Systems Center Engineering Launch Support System program manager, Victor Folk, ManTech program manager, Lt. Col. Kris Barcomb, 1st Air and Space Test Squadron commander, Capt. Megan Harkins, SpaceX mission integrator and FLSC project lead, Craig Cumberland, ManTech Systems Engineering and Integration contractor and lead project engineer, and Capt. Nathan Fisher, 1st ASTS mission support flight deputy commander, complete a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the finalized Falcon Launch Support Center, June 24, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The 1st ASTS recently completed a project on two launch support centers – the Falcon Launch Support Center and the Mission Assurance Readiness Site -- that will be key to posturing the 30th Launch Group to support future government missions launching on SpaceX rockets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert J. Volio/Released)

Members from several organizations pose for a photo in the completed Mission Assurance Room, June 24, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The 1st ASTS recently completed a project on two launch support centers – the Falcon Launch Support Center and the Mission Assurance Readiness Site -- that will be key to posturing the 30th Launch Group to support future government missions launching on SpaceX rockets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert J. Volio/Released)

Members from several organizations pose for a photo in the completed Mission Assurance Room, June 24, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The 1st ASTS recently completed a project on two launch support centers – the Falcon Launch Support Center and the Mission Assurance Readiness Site -- that will be key to posturing the 30th Launch Group to support future government missions launching on SpaceX rockets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert J. Volio/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

With a multitude of obstacles standing in the way of a successful launch, careful coordination is essential to entering polar orbit.

A lot of that coordination takes place within the 1st Air and Space Test Squadron, working closely with other organizations. The 1st ASTS recently completed a project on two launch support centers – the Falcon Launch Support Center and the Mission Assurance Readiness Site -- that will be key to posturing the 30th Launch Group to support future government missions launching on SpaceX rockets.

“The Falcon Launch Support Center will be our squadron’s avenue for performing mission assurance for SpaceX on this coast,” said Capt. Megan Harkins, 1st ASTS SpaceX mission integrator and FLSC project lead. “The room will be used to communicate any day-of-launch concerns up to the Mission Director and Launch Decision Authority.”

While both rooms are similar in structure, the MARS will be used to monitor daily launch site processing, whereas the FLSC will be utilized on day of launch.

“The MARS is for all the day-to-day mission assurance that our team will be doing prior to launch,” said Harkins. “The team will be down on the pad monitoring contractors, overseeing the procedures and doing all their technical work. On the day of launch that same technical team will be sitting on console in the FLSC.”

Inside the FLCS will be a team comprised of personnel from the 1st ASTS, Aerospace and the Space and Missile Systems Center, based in Los Angeles.

“The FLSC was designed to meet Space and Missile Systems Center requirements,” said Craig Cumberland, ManTech Systems Engineering and Integration contractor and lead project engineer. “They levied requirements on us through a Letter of Assignment to establish a Launch Support Center that would house the mission assurance team comprised of SMC, 1st ASTS and Aerospace personnel.”

This working relationship between the Air Force and SpaceX aims to improve mission assurance both now and in the future.

“SpaceX is critical to our nation’s assured access to space,” said Lt. Col. Kris Barcomb, 1st ASTS commander. “Maintaining that posture of partnership and insight is essential to the government’s ability to ensure that its most critical assets have the safest path from the ground to orbit. These mission assurance centers provide us with the ability to maintain oversight at the pad and during day of launch operations. These key nodes facilitate our ability to exchange technical information, assess risk and support, critical decisions; for the Mission Director and Launch Decision Authority. Our goal is to provide them with every piece of data possible to make the most appropriate decisions for the safety of both the public and the mission that’s on the vehicle.”

The FLSC and MARS projects were successfully completed thanks to a collaborative effort by several organizations, a feat that has not gone unnoticed.

“I’m extremely proud of the team and the work that’s been done here,” said Barcomb. “It’s been an extraordinary partnership between the 30th Space Wing, the SMC, the SE&I team from ManTech, SpaceX, and several other key contributors. We identified a need, secured the funding, developed a plan and executed it. I think we’re going to leave a mark on the base and the mission assurance enterprise for a long time as a result of the hard work the team has done. We’re very excited to continue supporting SMC from the 30th SW and maintain that strong partnership that will help us posture this wing for the future as we grow and expand the number of launch providers that are available for meeting our critical launch requirements.”