. Space Travel News .

Tracking infinity and beyond
by Lea Johnson for 21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
Peterson AFB CO (SPX) Aug 11, 2011

Atlantis' final landing at Kennedy Space Center

The landing of the shuttle Atlantis July 21 marked the end of an era of space exploration. Behind the scenes, thousands of people have helped the U.S. space program make history while only a few faces have been recognized.

Several of the 21st Space Wing's geographically separated units have been critical in ensuring the safety and success of the shuttle program. The 6th Space Warning Squadron at Cape Cod Air Force Station, Mass., 7th SWS at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., and 20th Space Control Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., track more than 22,000 near-earth and deep space objects, shuttle missions and the International Space Station.

From launch to landing these GSUs are tracking the shuttle and any objects that could potentially collide with the shuttle.

"The 6th Space Warning Squadron at Cape Cod Air Force Station supported NASA's space shuttle missions by tracking shuttle launches from Cape Canaveral into orbit, and then by tracking the shuttles, the International Space Station, and other low-earth orbiting objects," said 1st Lt. Stefan Wladyka, 6th SWS Operations Support Flight assistant commander.

"The 6th Space Warning Squadron frequently updates the Joint Functional Component Command for Space 'space catalog' to help maintain space situational awareness and facilitate safe and responsible orbital operations," Wladyka said. "The predictability and accuracy of the 6th Space Warning Squadron's space track observations contributed to the protection of the space shuttle and its astronauts, and will continue to help protect vital national resources into the future."

On the opposite coast, another of the 21st Space Wing's geographically separated units kept its eyes on the skies as well.

According to Capt. Chris Leininger, 7th SWS Operations Support Flight commander, the space surveillance mission provides data on the trajectories of low-earth orbiting objects, objects within 2,000 kilometers of earth's surface. This data is used to help improve collision avoidance and safety for objects currently in orbit and new ones being launched.

"(The) 7th SWS tracked the orbiter while it was on orbit, and during docking and undocking maneuvers with the International Space Station as part of our space surveillance mission," Leininger said.

The 20th SPCS, 6th SWS and 7th SWS have similar space surveillance missions and with manned space missions, surveillance becomes increasingly important.

"Much of the satellite tracking is done automatically by the radar," Leininger said. "But because these are manned missions, they are actively monitored by the radar operations crews."

Capt. Aaron Lynch, 20th SPCS Operations Flight commander , said, "In 2009, observations collected by the 20th SPCS led NASA to evacuate astronauts from the International Space Station into the Russian Soyuz manned spacecraft after identifying objects with a close trajectory to the space station."

Most of the space debris are less than one millimeter in diameter and cause no damage. However, according to the NASA website, the shuttle occasionally had to dodge objects if it was determined there was a one in 10,000 chance of a collision.

The shuttles are back on earth now, but the mission of the 6th SWS, 7th SWS and 20th SPCS continues with only a few minor changes.

"We continue to perform the space surveillance mission since there are still many objects up there (that) we want our functioning satellites to be able to avoid," Leininger said.

Additionally, the United States will continue to send astronauts to space using the Russian Soyuz capsule and the 6th SWS, 7th SWS and 20th SPCS will continue to closely monitor manned missions to the International Space Station.

When the United States once again sends astronauts into space, the crews will be ready to support the program safely and effectively, Lynch said.

Related Links
Shuttle at NASA
Watch NASA TV via Space.TV
Space Shuttle News at Space-Travel.Com

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries

. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Teams Practice Lifting Shuttles at Airports
Kennedy Space Center FL (SPX) Aug 10, 2011
It will take two large cranes, a specially built sling, four masts and about 45 people to perform the complex maneuvers to safely lift a space shuttle off the back of a modified 747. Because it hasn't been done in more than 20 years, teams rehearsed the lift on the Shuttle Landing Facility's ramp at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It is a scene coming soon to Washington, D.C., Los ... read more

China successfully launches maritime satellite

NASA selects Virgin Galactic for Suborbital Flights

Arabsat-5C is welcomed in French Guiana for Arianespace's next Ariane 5 launch

SES-2 Satellite Launch Preparations Kick off in Kourou

Opportunity Reaches Endeavour Crater

Lava, not water, said cause of Mars beds

No Convenience Stores Between Earth and Mars... Yet

Opportunity For A Captain Cook At Endeavour Crater

GRAIL Launch Less Than One Month Away

The Lunar Farside And The Ancient Big Splat

"Big Splat" May Explain The Moon's Mountainous Far Side

LADEE Completes Mission Critical Design Review

Citizen Scientists Discover a New Horizons Flyby Target

View from the Summit: Hunting for KBOs at the Top of the World

Hubble telescope spots tiny fourth moon near Pluto

NASA's Hubble Discovers Another Moon Around Pluto

Alien World is Blacker than Coal

Strange planet is blacker than coal

Exoplanet Aurora Makes For An Out-of-this-World Sight

Distant planet aurorae modeled

US looks for answers after hypersonic plane fails

US military loses contact with hypersonic aircraft

NASA Selects Companies To Study Storing Cryogenic Propellants In Space

Ball Aerospace Develops Flight Computers for Next-Generation Launch Vehicles

No Toilet for Tiangong

Toys for Tiangong

Why Tiangong is not a Station Hub

China to launch experimental satellite in coming days

NASA Plans to Visit a Near-Earth Asteroid

Asteroid Photographer Beams Back Science Data

Comet Elenin Poses No Threat to Earth

A Comet Collision to Come?

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement