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45th SW supports successful Falcon 9 EchoStar XXIII launch

The U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing supported SpaceX’s successful launch of the EchoStar XXIII spacecraft aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center March 16 at 2 a.m. EDT. (Courtesy photo/SpaceX webcast)

The U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing supported SpaceX’s successful launch of the EchoStar XXIII spacecraft aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center March 16 at 2 a.m. EDT. (Courtesy photo/SpaceX webcast)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (AFNS) -- The 45th Space Wing supported SpaceX’s successful launch of the EchoStar XXIII spacecraft aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center March 16, 2017.

EchoStar XXIII, designed and built by Space Systems Loral for EchoStar Corp., will provide TV broadcast services over Brazil with an estimated service life of 15 years.

The launch marked the last SpaceX Falcon 9 launch utilizing ground-based mission flight control personnel and equipment in the mission control center. All future SpaceX rockets will utilize an Autonomous Flight Safety System which replaces the ground-based mission flight control personnel and equipment with on-board positioning, navigation and timing sources and decision logic. The benefits of AFSS include increased public safety, reduced reliance on range infrastructure, reduced range spacelift cost, increased schedule predictability and availability, operational flexibility and launch slot flexibility.

SpaceX’s CRS-10 launch on Feb. 18 from Launch Complex 39A marked the historic first launch utilizing AFSS on either of Air Force Space Command’s Eastern or Western Ranges.

The Falcon 9 Echostar XXIII launch was the third major launch operation for the Eastern Range this year and the second from Launch Complex 39A. Before any spacecraft can launch on the range, a combined team of military, government civilians and contractors from across the 45th SW provide the mission assurance to ensure a safe and successful liftoff for range customers.

“We truly have a tremendous team here on the Space Coast and it’s my honor to be a part of this mission supporting the commercial space industry,” said Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, the 45th SW commander and launch decision authority for this mission. “Assured access to space is a team sport here on the Eastern Range. This operation once again clearly demonstrates the successful collaboration we have with our mission partner SpaceX as we continue to shape the future of America's space operations and showcase why the 45th Space Wing is the ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space.’”

Since the late 1960s, Launch Complex 39A has served as the starting point for America's most significant human spaceflight endeavors such as the Apollo 11 launch for the first manned moon landing in 1969 and the first Space Transportation System mission in 1981 with the launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia, also named STS-1. Thirty years later, NASA’s 135th and final mission of the Space Shuttle program, STS-135, successfully launched the orbiter Atlantis from Launch Complex 39A.

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