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NEWS | Aug. 6, 2020

JB Charleston Airmen support NASA launch program

By Senior Airman Cody R Miller Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Joint Base Charleston Airmen took part in supporting an Air Force initiative to provide rescue operations to NASA and SpaceX astronauts during manned space launches, July 31st, 2020.

“The initiative ensures the safety and rescue capability of the astronauts,” said Master Sgt. Justin Carrano, 437th Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight chief. “This provides a symbolic safety net for the team in the event of an emergency and safeguards personnel on board.”

This new series of space missions to the International Space Station mark the first time since the space shuttle program was retired in 2011 that a U.S. manufactured rocket carried astronauts into space. It also demonstrated the U.S. government’s commitment to space, space exploration and ensuring free and continued access.

“The Munitions Flight at JB Charleston provides personnel and rescue munitions to pararescue Airmen stationed out of Patrick Air Force Base,” Carrano said. “We provide illumination and personnel flares along with sea markers in the event of an emergency or rescue situation. The Munitions Flight at JB Charleston set the Air Force standard and operating procedures for munitions practices in our joint collaboration with NASA and SpaceX. There are 13 personnel assigned to the Munitions Flight and each had an integral part in getting this mission accomplished.”

As a precautionary measure, U.S. Space Command and the U.S. Air Force assigned teams of search and rescue professionals to stand alert ahead of the launch at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina; Patrick Air Force Base, Florida; and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

The teams are comprised of Pararescuemen, Combat Rescue Officers, and Aircrew Flight Equipment specialists who are ready to board HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopters, HC-130J Combat King rescue aircraft or C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at a moment’s notice and perform open-ocean, airdrop-enabled rescue operations to extract, stabilize and ensure transport to definitive medical care, if needed.

“To be a part of one of the first manned spacecraft event in years really leaves a sense of pride and accomplishment,” said Carrano. “In my 15 year career, this is probably one of my favorite missions to be involved in.  Its mission is unique and comes with some degree of difficulty, but the feeling you have when it gets accomplished is indescribable.”

If a “pad abort” or an anomaly within the first few minutes of flight occurred, the forces at Patrick AFB will immediately deploy to conduct an open-ocean rescue of the crew, returning to pre-selected hospital facilities for definitive medical care. Further up the ascent track, or in the event of a “once-around” emergency, forces from one of the other locations, including those at JB Charleston, are prepared to utilize the speed and reach of the C-17 Globemaster III to locate the capsule and airdrop the rescue team, boats and emergency equipment.

The Department of Defense has a long history of supporting NASA’s human space flight programs. DoD assets maintain a constant state of readiness and are uniquely postured to assist with these operations, especially in regard to crew module recovery. The DoD’s Human Space Flight Support mission is a steady-state, enduring mission requiring long-term support and resourcing to contribute to NASA’s crewed space flight efforts.