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In its continued efforts to support the academic research community, the Research Range Services (RRS) Program provided services for the July 10, 2011, launch of a sub-orbital mission known as “Daytime Dynamo”, consisting of Black Brant V and Terrier-Orion sounding rockets.
The sub-orbital vehicles carried payloads to study the Earth’s atmosphere and were launched only 15 seconds apart, requiring the range to configure its instrumentation to receive data from two vehicles.
The Daytime Dynamo mission required very specific atmospheric conditions to gather the data required by the research team and after several counts over the preceding days, these conditions were finally met. As fate would have it, the projected launch time corresponded exactly with a pass-over of not only the International Space Station (ISS), but also the Space Shuttle and the research team said the launch could not be slipped past its currently scheduled launch time.
This challenge proved the abilities of not only the RRS crew, but also the instrumentation they operated. In the months before the mission, it was decided that five radars would be supported — three on one vehicle, two on the other. The requirement was to have at least two radars per vehicle as part of mission assurance.
When the Space Station and Shuttle arrived at the party, the RRS team had to develop a plan that would allow them to support all three missions. Through the expert coordination and teamwork of the customer and RRS teams, the requirement for two tracking radars per vehicle was waived during the countdown and two radars were allowed to break away from launch support to fulfill their ISS/Shuttle missions, leaving the remaining three to track the vehicles. Of those three, two radars were assigned to track the first vehicle, leaving the last radar to stand alone and track the second vehicle.
As the rockets blasted into the sky, crews and instrumentation performed outstandingly, including the stand-alone radar, allowing the research team to gather their atmospheric data and NASA to obtain the tracking data needed for the ISS and Shuttle.
RRS believes in the power of teamwork and open communication and this launch provided a perfect example of what can happen when all parties work together.