The Cape, Chapter 2, Section 4

TITAN and Shuttle Military Space Operations

Quality Assurance and Payload Processing Agencies

Quality assurance was an essential part of successful military space operations at the Cape. Under ESMC and the 45th Space Wing, military officials remained sensitive to quality assurance issues. They demanded high quality services and hardware from their contractors, who maintained their own staffs of quality assurance people. The 6555th Aerospace Test Group and its successors monitored military space operations with quality in mind, but the principal responsibility for quality assurance was carried out by civil servants in another part of ESMC and the 45th Space Wing. In the early 1980s, ESMC assigned the quality assurance role to the Quality Assurance Division under the Center's Directorate of Contracting and Support. The Division became a directorate following an ESMC reorganization in April 1986, but its duties continued to revolve around the following highly specialized programs:27

Figure 46: IUS Processing

1. Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster recovery and refurbishment.

2. NASA and Defense Department payloads.

3. Inertial Upper Stages.

4. TITAN Launch Vehicles.

By the end of the 1980s, 49 civil servants were assigned to the Directorate's Solid Rocket Booster Division and Quality Engineering Division to supervise Shuttle solid rocket booster recovery and refurbishment activities. Forty-six civilians also operated out of the Aerospace Systems Division and the Space Launch Systems Division to monitor IUS and TITAN quality assurance. Payloads were inspected by 32 civilians in the Space Transportation Systems Division, which was renamed the MLV and Payloads Division on 12 June 1990. Following the 45th Space Wing's activation in November 1991, the Directorate of Quality was reorganized as a "three-letter" office (LGZ) under the 45th Logistics Support Squadron. Its divisions became four-letter offices with no reduction in the scope of their activities. They continued to provide quality assurance and complement inspection efforts in the space launch squadrons, the Launch Vehicle Directorate, and the 45th Spacecraft Operations Squadron.28

In our brief review of responsibilities, we have saved the 45th Spacecraft Operations Squadron for last because of its pivotal role in military payload activities. The mission of the 45th Spacecraft Operations Squadron (45 SPOS) was to serve as an executive agent for the Space and Missile Systems Center and process Defense Department spacecraft for flights on ATLAS, DELTA, TITAN and Shuttle vehicles. (The Squadron also processed other payloads as requested by other customers.) On paper, the Squadron had separate flights for ATLAS, DELTA, TITAN and Shuttle payload operations, but only the DELTA Payload Operations Flight had dedicated officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs)-at least through 1992. The rest of the flights were supplied by a pool of officers and NCOs who were funneled into the separate flights as needed. As of November 1992, 58 people (including six officers from Air Force Materiel Command) were assigned to the 45 SPOS.29

On the contractor side of the "payload" house, the McDonnell Douglas Space Systems Company (MDSSC) provided approximately 150 people under the Launch Operations Support Contract (LOSC) to support operations at the Spacecraft Processing and Integration Facility (a.k.a., the Shuttle Payload Integration Facility) and work at the Operations Support Center (OSC). Rockwell International Corporation provided 80 people to process NAVSTAR Global Positioning System satellites launched on DELTA II boosters. General Electric Astro Space employed 100 people to process Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) payloads launched on the ATLAS II, and Johnson Controls dedicated 28 people to facility maintenance and other ground support functions. All together, more than 400 military people, civil servants and contractors supported spacecraft operations under the 45th Spacecraft Operations Squadron's taskings.30

The Air Force payload operations team was the linchpin for 45 SPOS spacecraft activities. The team was formed approximately one to two years before a spacecraft arrived at the Cape, and the team consisted of a Payload Operations Director (POD), a Field Program Manager and Deputy (FPM and DFPM), a Lead Non-Commissioned Officer (LNCO), Operations Controllers (OCs) and a Spacecraft Countdown Controller (SCC). The Payload Operations Director was responsible for all spacecraft launch base operations involving a particular booster class of payload (i.e., DELTA, ATLAS, TITAN or Shuttle). The POD managed and controlled spacecraft testing, fueling, prelaunch and launch activities for the Mission Director. He also selected the Field Program Manager, who would keep the team updated on the spacecraft's status.31

The Field Program Manager exercised control over the contractor's field processing and launch activities. Those workloads stepped up dramatically about six to twelve months before a launch, and the FPM had to ensure that the launch base was ready to receive flight hardware at the proper time. Test procedures were reviewed and approved, facilities were configured, and the payload operations team was briefed. After the spacecraft arrived at the Cape (about six months before launch), the FPM chaired daily spacecraft scheduling meetings with the POD, the Deputy FPM, the Payload Support Contractor, the Launch Systems Integration Contractor, the Launch Vehicle Contractor, the SPO, the Air Force Launch Controller, the Aerospace Corporation's representative and (often) a representative from Air Force Quality Assurance (LGZ). Based on the meetings, the FPM approved the spacecraft schedule and made sure operations were performed according to that schedule. The Deputy FPM assumed the FPM's duties during the latter's absence and attended to spacecraft security badging and test procedures.32

The Lead Non-Commissioned Officer was responsible for scheduling all range support activities for the spacecraft program. He received most of those requirements at the spacecraft scheduling meetings, but his experience and oversight were required to identify critical requirements that might have been missed in the documents presented at those meetings. The LNCO coordinated the spacecraft's arrival with the Operations Support Center and other support agencies approximately three days before the spacecraft arrived at the Cape. He was present during most major spacecraft operations, and, through his contacts, he was able to get support for missed services-especially those identified as "show-stoppers." The LNCO did not operate independently. He coordinated his requests with the Payload Support Contract Test Conductor. The work was scheduled through the Operations Support Center.33

The 45th Spacecraft Operations Squadron's Operations Controllers were responsible for controlling and supervising individual field operations (e.g., fueling, ordnance installation, solid motor buildup, spacecraft lifts, etc.). Like the SLOCs in the launch squadrons, the spacecraft OCs had the authority to stop processes whenever safety or security standards were violated. The OCs ensured that clean room (contamination control) standards were maintained in the processing areas. In the event of a spacecraft anomaly or processing accident, the OC stopped the operation and alerted the FPM.34

This brings us to the final member of the payload operations team-the Spacecraft Countdown Controller (SCC). When qualified, the FPM served as the SCC on launch day, but regardless of who served, the SCC was responsible for the performance of pre-countdown and countdown procedures on major tests and launch operations. The SCC ensured spacecraft readiness and participated in trouble-shooting processes during the countdown. He reported to the Payload Operations Director and the Launch Controller, and he conferred with the Payload Support Contract Test Conductor and the SPO on issues that might warrant a launch hold. At predetermined points in the countdown, the SCC provided go/no-go recommendations, including the final go/no-go recommendation before lift-off.35

The Cape: Miltary Space Operations 1971-1992
by Mark C. Cleary, Chief Historian
45 Space Wing Office of History
1201 Minuteman Ave, Patrick AFB, FL 32925