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Courtesy of SpaceX.




Antennas and rockets
New Hampshire’s link to the recent space missions

03/09/17
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



 If you watched the live feed of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launch from the Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 19, you might have heard the commentator talk about data coming in from New Hampshire. 

That data, it turns out, came from the New Boston Air Force Station, and it’s been helping out with space launches like these since the 1960s. 
 
Falcon 9
Major Nathaniel Markley is the director of operations at the New Boston Air Force Station, which is located on an old World War II bombing range. He said three antennas there — which look like mini Epcot center globes — are dedicated to the Air Force Satellite Control Network. The network site has the codename BOSS and is operated by the 23rd Space Operations Squadron. 
Markley said whenever there’s a launch on the East Coast, BOSS is usually involved in the mission.
“We’re usually the first site that will be called up to help track the telemetry from that rocket or the satellite vehicle that is sitting on top of the rocket,” Markley said.
During the last launch, BOSS was one of three network sites around the globe that helped relay telemetry, tracking and commanding data from the Falcon 9 rocket to mission control. The other two were LION in Oakhanger, England, and REEF in Diego Garcia, a small island in the Indian Ocean.
While BOSS plays an important role, its main function isn’t to examine the data; it’s just to make sure mission control gets it.
“We don’t actually see the data,” Markley said. “The analogy we like to use is that we’re just a real complex telephone operator [using] the old patch cables.”
The antenna operators, of which there is one for each antenna always on duty, make sure the antenna is aligned correctly and is beaming at the right signal frequency and power, and that the data link-up is working.
Usually, an East Coast launch will rely first on BOSS, and then, as it moves farther east, other sites like LION and REEF will take over the task. Ahead of the launch, operators are on the phone with mission control personnel to make sure the antenna is tuned to the appropriate, unique frequencies and to troubleshoot any issues that might arise mid-mission.
 
Space connection
The BOSS station is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year. Its first antenna was installed in 1961 and it’s been involved in space missions ever since. 
Because it’s located on an old bombing range, the Air Force has spent the past several decades cleaning up the land and getting rid of old bombs in unspent ordnance remediation efforts.
On any given day, they’re talking to about 80 satellites in orbit and helping the satellite owners track them. Markley said BOSS handles around 67,000 launch or satellite supports each year.
The most recent launch (CRS 10) was the 10th of 12 resupply missions to the International Space Station that NASA has contracted with SpaceX to conduct.
On average, the New Boston station helps with about 10 SpaceX launches each year, about two to five of which are NASA resupply missions, according to Markley.
The 23rd Space Operations Squadron covers all the sites around the Atlantic Ocean, whereas the 21st Space Operations Squadron covers the Indian and Pacific Oceans. 





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