By Scott Prater
The maneuver signaled successful completion of phase three of the squadron’s four-step effort to establish a back-up operations location. It also brings the squadrons one step closer to an achievement few had even imagined less than a year ago.
“I think it’s important to understand that the idea of an alternate location didn’t exist when we assumed command of ORS-1,” said Master Sgt. Herb Mosier, 1 SOPS flight chief. “There was no plan to have a back up for the program. We launched the satellite and began performing the mission.”
The Operationally Responsive Space program was designed as a fast-track endeavor, where a satellite asset was conceived, built, launched and entered into operation at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional systems.
“Our team saw an opportunity to create this back-up capability,” said Lt. Col. Mike Manor, 1 SOPS commander. “We found the resources and jumped at the chance. Now, in less than a year, we’ll go from nothing to a fully operational back-up.”
It’s fitting for the Operationally Responsive Space program.
“That’s been our consistent message,” Manor said. “We’ve created this alternate operations environment in a faster, cheaper and just-in-time method, which is right in line with the ORS program philosophy. It almost seems like it’s off the shelf.”
In the same vein, 1 and 7 SOPS can deploy engineers and operations crews to the back-up location at a moment’s notice, thus keeping its normal daily crew rotation relatively stable. Squadron leaders won’t need to create new teams or training regimens for their members since the back-up location uses the same Multi-Mission Space Operations Center ground system and procedures.
“Everything at the back-up location will be identical to our operations floor here, as far as tools and programs go,” Mosier said. “Crews will operate the vehicle as if they were here.”
Manor explained that the back-up location will serve a vital role because the nature of ORS-1’s orbit and mission dictate constant attention. Maintaining an alternate operations location creates a more reliable and resilient program for an ORS-1 vehicle that resides in low-Earth orbit.
“Vehicles in low-Earth orbit are more affected by the Earth’s gravitational pull and atmospheric effects,” he said. “We need to have the capability to maneuver ORS-1 to keep it on station so it can continue to perform its mission. If something should happen to our primary operations floor here, we won’t suffer an interruption in service.”
Mosier added that losing a primary ops floor could have more dire consequences for ORS-1.
“For some other vehicles, loss of a primary ops floor may cause the mission to be disrupted, but for us a loss means we could also lose the satellite,” he said. “That’s one of the main reasons we felt the need to find a good location and establish the back up.”
Manor expects the final phase of the project to be completed in early 2013, when crews will test a mission planning tool at the alternate location.
“Once that happens, we’ll be able to celebrate,” he said. “At that point, the back-up operations floor will be capable of operating without relying on our facilities here at Schriever.”