VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE -- The 30th Space Wing accomplishes its mission of enabling space superiority in part by managing Department of Defense space and missile testing, providing commercial launch opportunities, and placing satellites into polar orbit from the West Coast.
Vandenberg’s 30th SW Safety Office must ensure the safety of not only base personnel, but also the local community in order to provide efficient spaceport and range capabilities for the nation.
“In order for the wing commander to conduct the mission here, he has to have confidence that the safety team is doing their job to protect the base and the community,” said Col. Michael Wulfestieg, 30th SW Safety Office chief of safety.
Any launch from Vandenberg requires high involvement from the launch safety team, which includes the fire department, security forces and members from the 30th SW Safety Office.
“Wing staff safety offices manage the safety program for the wing commander of the base and focuses on industrial safety, explosive safety if they have weapons, and flight safety if they have aircraft,” said William Stark, 30th SW Safety Office chief of pad and missile safety. “We have all those safety aspects, but we also have a large staff of people that deal with all the aspects of launch risks. That entails overseeing our launch partners and making sure that they do their job in a way that doesn’t affect the safety of the public.”
Every launch is an extensive project. The 30th SW Safety Office, amongst other offices, prepare several months in advance for each mission.
“The job on launch night is to make sure the launch facility is clear, all personnel are evacuated from inside the limit line, and the vehicle is safe for takeoff,” said Jason Porter, 30th SW Safety Office operation safety technician.
Firemen, security forces and safety personnel all work cohesively the night of launch as part of the launch safety team. Members of the team complete checklists, sweep the terrain and buildings, and make sure everything is ready so Vandenberg has a successful launch.
“We don’t want to terminate a missile or rocket in flight, but we know that is our job if that’s what is required to protect the public and those outside the base,” Wulfestieg said.
Safety takes control of the launch site 90 minutes prior to a scheduled launch time. An operation safety technician, such as Porter, will meet the organization maintaining the specific launch on site to receive the keys to the facility. After the keys are handed over, everyone falls back to their designated location to carry out their other tasks in order to accomplish the mission.
“The safety mission in our office isn’t going to be any different from a safety mission at any wing, however, ours is tailored to the main mission here, which is supporting launch and all the risks associated with that,” Stark said.
Although every launch operation comes with risks, our safety team helps to mitigate those risks because the mission must still be completed.