The US Air Force (USAF) is replacing key range infrastructure at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (AFS) in Florida as it prepares for a goal two or three months from now of launching rockets twice within 18 hours, according to a key officer.
Brigadier General Wayne Monteith, the 45th Space Wing Commander told Jane's on 2 May at the Pentagon that the service recently took down its complete fibre backbone and also replaced ageing equipment that was single point failure.
Brig Gen Monteith said, for the first time in years, all range equipment functioned properly coming out of repairs. This time, he said, the range was "green" for four consecutive launches before further maintenance was required. The USAF said it would be unable to provide further comment by press time.
The USAF is gearing up for the age of commercial space and reusable rocketry where it will be required to launch more often with quicker turnaround time. Currently the air force's launch ranges, located at both Cape Canaveral AFS and Vandenberg Air Force Base (AFB) in California are built for expendable rockets that fly only once.
Pentagon contractor SpaceX has a reusable vehicle, while another contractor, United Launch Alliance (ULA), is developing its own reusable rocket called Vulcan. Cape Canaveral has also seen increased use from commercial companies such as SpaceX performing missions for NASA or commercial satellite developers.
The USAF is counting on a technology called Autonomous Flight Safety System (AFSS) to help it increase its launch cadence. AFSS is a GPS-guided termination system that will automatically destroy a rocket if it veers off a set path, putting the public at risk. Legacy flight safety systems use humans and equipment such as tracking radars to serve as safety valves in case rockets veer off course.