RAD Enhances Efficiency For Space Launch Missions
by U.S. Space Force Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman
June 13, 2022
A new software program called “Range
Application Deployment,” is enhancing situational awareness for
space launch missions at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and
Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
U.S. Space Force Capt. Mark Conque, 1st Range Operations Squadron assistant director of operations, uses the Range Applications Deployment system to assess operations
on June 7, 2022, at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. The RAD system offers up to 25 video feeds to support space launch missions. (U.S. Space Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)
The system, which is accessible from any
networked location in the United States, provides launch control
officers with several communication channels, the launch countdown
clock and up to 25 video feeds.
Senior leaders at then
Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station began
developing a virtual computing environment in 2018 to allow the
Capabilities Development Division to work innovation projects geared
towards modernizing legacy range systems, said Sonia Holmquist, Space Launch Delta 45 Capabilities Development
“We established a lab environment with the
information technology architecture and internet protocol network to
enable this work and integrated various products through small,
quick projects that would provide a virtualized operator workspace,
enabling operators to access all the tools and mission information
needed from one console, increasing flexibility to access tools from
various locations,” Holmquist said.
In November 2020, the
Capabilities Development Division researched what it would take to
transition the lab environment into an operational capacity,
Holmquist said. The software received operational acceptance
approval May 9 and was used to support Boeing’s Orbital Flight
Test-2 mission to the International Space Station May 19.
Mike Loftis, SLD 45 Capabilities Development Division technology
planning analyst has worked to bring RAD online since January 2021.
“I lead much of the effort on the infrastructure side, data
center, virtualization, coordinating contract support for
maintenance, sustainment and development efforts for the system,”
Loftis said. “RAD is IT infrastructure and software applications
that help us quickly move new capabilities from development to
production or operation.”
The software is also adaptable in a
variety of ways to support launch operations, Loftis added.
“The underlying virtual infrastructure allows us to allocate
resources and adapt the system to support whatever applications that
need to come onto the system,” Loftis said. “Currently, launch
operators have access to mission video streams, mission voice
communications and range timing. They have access to a unified
graphical display that they can configure to their needs so they’re
not stuck using hardware based, legacy systems.”
Range at CCSFS supports dozens of launches each year. As of June 7,
the Eastern Range has supported 21 launches, including the Crew-4
launch April 27. Innovations such as RAD, enhance mission
“With the increasing launch tempo, RAD will
enable launch crews at 1st ROPS the flexibility to operate from
virtually anywhere,” said U.S. Space Force Maj. Jonathan Szul, 1st
Range Operations Squadron director of operations. “With RAD's
current capabilities, operators can utilize internal communication
nets as well as have range timing and video feeds.”
vital to mission success, Szul said.
awareness tool integrates multiple operator functions into one
convenient tool,” Szul said. “A particular benefit of the virtual
communication nets is the ability to reconfigure nets on-the-fly.
The legacy ORION communication panel must be manually reconfigured
and can only be done by authorized contractors. However, with RAD,
an operator can select and deselect communication nets with a click
of the mouse."
This gives the flexibility of adding back-up
nets in the event of communication outages and increases overall
situational awareness on nets an operator would not have otherwise
been able to monitor due to physical limitations of the ORION
communication panels, Szul added.
U.S. Space Force Capt. Mark
Conque, 1st ROPS assistant director of operations, shared his
appreciation for the RAD system.
“It modernizes our day of
launch interfaces, taking us from an antiquated ORION panel that was
developed in the 60s or 70s and virtualizes it to a digital
communication panel,” he said. “With RAD, I am not limited. I can
access whatever I need.”
When Conque serves as a range
operations commander, he is responsible for ensuring public safety
and he said that the RAD system helps his team do just that.
“If we don’t know what’s going on than we can’t without a doubt
say the range is clear for launch,” Conque said. “RAD provides us
with the heightened awareness we need and helps us ensure public
safety. The video feed application allows me to see things and
configure things the way I want to. I can alternate between feeds as
I see fit or we can divide the feeds among each launch operator. All
of this enhances situational awareness.”
It also shortens
range reconfiguration time and enhances launch on demand for Space
Launch Delta 45.
“With RAD, we could support two launches
within 24 hours or 40 minutes,” Conque said. “We could provide
simultaneous support to two different launch customers because we
have the enhanced situational awareness to do that. This will allow
us to support the mission, even more launch providers in the future
and ensure public safety. ”
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