Behind the Scenes on the Shuttle Night Launch

After a delay due to weather, the Saturday night launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery marked the first shuttle night launch in more than four years.

The Discovery mission involves more than NASA, however: Playing a key role in analyzing the weather and the launch itself was the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing out of Patrick Air Force base in Florida.

Air Force Link provides a unique behind-the-scenes look into the role of the 45th Space Wing in Discovery’s launch:

Several units across the 45th SW played vital roles such as helping validate the pad after the shuttle rolled out, final ordnance installation, providing weather forecasts, organizing and training Department of Defense contingency response forces and media relations.

The wing also provided eastern range support with a vast network of radar, telemetry, meteorological, optical and communications instrumentation that helped facilitate a safe, picture-perfect launch….

Another of the ways the 45th SW supported this mission was monitoring restricted airspace near Kennedy Space Center and helping keep it clear during the launch window.

Staff Sgt. Adam Greer, of the wing’s 1st Range Operations Squadron, served as an aerospace control officer. He closely monitored a radar scope and had the capability to facilitate contacting pilots who strayed into the restricted airspace, if necessary, during the mission.

Sergeant Greer remembers watching space shuttle launches as a kid. He said it’s surreal that he is part of the launch team now.

"The fact that I played a role in space exploration by helping launch a mission to the International Space Station is something that will stay with me forever," he said.

The STS-116 mission is the 33rd for Discovery and the 117th space shuttle flight. During the planned12-day mission, the crew will continue construction on the International Space Station, rewiring the orbiting laboratory and adding a segment to its integrated truss structure. 

Click here for more information on the 45th Space Wing at Patrick AFB.