NASA’s IceSat-2 Satellite Set for Launch From Vandenberg on Saturday

This image shows the ATLAS instrument inside a Goddard cleanroom where the instrument was assembled. (Credits: NASA/D. McCallum)

NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, a mission to measure the changing height of Earth’s ice, is scheduled to launch Saturday, Sept. 15, with a 40-minute window opening at 5:46 a.m. PDT (8:46 a.m. EDT).

The spacecraft will lift off from Space Launch Complex 2 (SLC-2) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on the final launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. The U.S. Air Force 30th Space Wing weather officer reported they are predicting a 100 percent chance of favorable weather on launch day.

Be sure to follow along during the live coverage events below.

NASA EDGE Tower Rollback Show, Friday, Sept. 14, at 6 p.m. PDT (9 p.m. EDT)

Watch live at:

NASA TV: www.nasa.gov/nasalive
NASA EDGE Facebook: www.facebook.com/nasaedgefan
NASA LSP Facebook: www.facebook.com/NASALSP
NASA EDGE YouTube: www.youtube.com/NASAedge
NASA EDGE Ustream: www.usream.tv/nasaedge

Guests:

  • Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington
  • Doug McLennan, ICESat-2 project manager, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Kelly Brunt, ICESat-2 science team member, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Rex Engelhardt, mission manager, NASA’s Launch Services Program
  • Mic Woltman, chief, Fleet Systems Integration Branch, NASA’s Launch Services Program
  • Tim Dunn, launch director, NASA Kennedy Space Center
  • Tom Neumann, ICESat-2 deputy project scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Donya Douglas-Bradshaw, ATLAS instrument project manager, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Dana VanDersaral, mission assurance team, United Launch Alliance

Live Launch Coverage, Saturday, Sept. 15, 5:10 a.m. PDT (8:10 a.m. EDT)
Join us for updates from the countdown, here on the blog and on NASA TV.

Vandenberg Consolidates Operations on Western Launch Range

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-47 mission lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

By Michael Peterson
30th Space Wing Public Affairs

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — The 30th Range Management Squadron inactivated and merged with the 2nd Range Operations Squadron here, July 10. The reorganization allows all range mission assurance operations to be conducted under a single chain of command. This combining of responsibilities allows two similar mission sets to continue providing a unified front for the Western Range.

“This process will empower our squadrons to push responsibility to our experts in the field and streamline our range management capabilities.” said Lt. Col. Max Coberly, 30th RMS commander. “This merger will offer our squadrons more flexibility in responding to the challenges of the range.”

“Since the activation of the 30th RMS in 2002, the unit has enabled 142 launches from Vandenberg,” said Col. Curtis Hernandez, 30th Operations Group commander. “The unit has also placed 73 satellites into orbit, valued at over 53.6 billion dollars, providing critical nation defense and commercial industry capabilities that protect and enable the American and global way of life.”

The 30th RMS inactivation and merge into the 2nd ROPS is a major step taken by the 30th Space Wing to reach its mission goal of “providing robust, relevant and efficient spaceport and range capabilities for the nation.”

“This Wing provides range support for nationally critical missions.” said Col. Michael Hough, 30th Space Wing commander. “We have to position ourselves to provide efficient, flexible range capabilities.”

The move to combine squadrons returns the decision-making down to the lower levels, improves readiness, and unifies the efforts of the wing towards the same goal while removing unnecessary barriers brought on by duplicated responsibilities. With the unified commands, Lt. Col. Meredith Beg, 2nd ROPS commander, sees the groundwork for an improved Western Range capability.

“The 30th RMS has made significant contributions to the defense of our nation, and cemented America’s current position as the dominant space power on this planet,” said Hernandez. “We will ensure America’s access to space is agile, efficient and lethal. This is an inactivation of a unit that maintained Vandenberg’s relevance to the nation and the planet, and has ensured our legacy into the future.”

Defense Act Calls for Upgrades to Eastern & Western Launch Ranges

SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA Television)

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) mandates the Department of Defense to undertaken a program to modernize the infrastructure and improve support services on the Eastern and Western launch ranges in Florida and California. The measure, passed by Congress, awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.

“The program….shall include investments to improve operations at the Eastern and Western Ranges that may benefit all users, to enhance the overall capabilities of ranges, to improve safety, and  to reduce the long-term costs of operations and maintenance,” the bill reads.

The act also includes measures to improve processes across both ranges to “minimize the burden on launch providers” and “improvements in transparency, flexibility, and, responsiveness for launch scheduling.”

The NDAA allows the DOD to consult with current and anticipated users of the two ranges and to pursue partnerships if appropriate. The DOD is given 120 days after enactment of the act to submit a report on planned improvements to congressional defense committees.

The commanders of the U.S. Air Force space wings that run the ranges have said they need more funding to maintain and upgrade aging infrastructure as they cope with a surge in commercial launches. The failure of Congress to pass budgets in time for the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1 and automatic budgets mandated under sequestration have also hindered long-term planning, the commanders said.

The Eastern Range, which handles launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, was recently closed for two weeks to tackle 85 high-priority maintenance projects. The western range at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California uses radar systems that were built in the 1950’s.

A Tale of 2 Launch Ranges: The Best & Worst of Times

ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the MUOS-4 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

America’s Eastern and Western launch ranges in Florida and California are struggling to keep up with increasing demand from the nation’s booming commercial launch industry while dealing with budget uncertainties in Washington, U.S. Air Force officials said last week.

The Eastern Range has been dealing with a surge of flights this year from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as SpaceX has increased its launch cadence. Elon Musk’s company and rival United Launch Alliance (ULA) has launched 18 times from Florida thus far, with two more SpaceX flights on the schedule for later this month.

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