Lift - Spring 2012 - (Page 10)
Home on tHe Range
Eagle trio ensures space launch success, longevity
By Sara WithroW
ol. Janet Grondin (’89, PC) has a daunting task before her—modernize and sustain the more than 300 systems that make up the nation’s Eastern and Western Launch and Test Ranges. Add to this a limited budget, equipment that dates back to NASA’s Apollo Program (1963– 72), and the need for little to no systems downtime, and the challenges of the mission multiply. Named commander of the U.S. Air Force’s Spacelift Range Division last July, Grondin oversees the acquisition and sustainment efforts for the Launch and Test Range System (LTRS) operated in Florida at Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The ground-based radar, optical and telemetry systems that constitute LTRS ensure that rockets carrying everything from weather and surveillance satellites safely enter outer space, and ballistic missiles arrive at their appointed test destinations.
“It’s kind of like airfield operations, except every flight is very expensive and every flight is nationally critical,” Grondin says. LTRS provides tracking support and serves an important safety net function. “We don’t launch the rocket, but our users have the ability to destroy it,” Grondin explains. “Our mission is very important. … The range has to work so assets America needs on orbit for national security purposes get to their destination. You don’t want to have to blow them up because range instrumentation can’t tell where the rocket is.”
Grondin is tasked with bringing the range up to today’s standards of technology. This includes awarding a $3 billion 10-year integrated support contract and overseeing a $200 million communications network upgrade over the next several years. Fortunately, she is not alone. Upon assuming command, Grondin quickly discovered two fellow Embry-Riddle
From left: Eric Hoffman (’93, PC), Col. Janet Grondin (’89, PC) and Brian Laird (’94, PC) met this past fall at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. Behind them are several test assets—part of the Eastern Launch and Test Range the trio manages.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Lift - Spring 2012
Lift - Spring 2012
Letter from the President
Wings of Legacy
Home on the Range
Giving to Embry-Riddle
Alumni in Action
Lift - Spring 2012