SSC Partners for Cost Effective Corrosion Control on its Launch Ranges

  • Published
  • By By Lisa Sodders, SSC Public Affairs
Over the past five years, Space Systems Command’s (SSC) Launch and Test Range System (LTRS) Product Support has saved $4.8 million in program funds by partnering with Hill Air Force Base and the Air Force Materiel Command’s Ogden Air Logistics Complex to support corrosion control and maintenance at both the Eastern and Western Space Launch Ranges.

Both the Eastern and Western Space Launch Ranges are located near oceans: if a launch goes awry, it is safer to have the rockets launch over water. But proximity to the ocean comes at a price: the salt air is extremely corrosive to metal.

“It’s one of the most corrosive environments because we sit right on the ocean and the salt-water air comes in and just corrodes everything in its path – if it’s metal, it’ll eat it up,” said Ralph Greenleaf, logistic management specialist with SSC Range Management (RM).

So relentless is the corrosion, mitigation measures must be repeated every two years, Greenleaf said. At stake is $6.45 million worth of mission-critical equipment, including eight tactical shelters; 29 towers; 22 radomes – weather-proof domes that protect radar antennas from the elements; two Advanced Tactical Optical Tracking System vans; and two Multiple Object Tracking Radars that house Prime Mission Equipment (PME).

“(Corrosion) ate through one of the legs on one of our towers and we were afraid it might fall over if they had a bad tropical storm come through,” Greenleaf said. “However, our corrosion team partnered with SLD45/CE and the Tower and Equipment building is being replaced to ensure our PME is protected.”

“At Patrick Space Force Base (PSFB), we had two telemetry radomes that had water intrusion, and with the electrical equipment housed there, that was a safety hazard,” Greenleaf added. “We requested an Emergency Depot Level Maintenance (EDLM) with SSC/A4 approval, and Ogden ALC sent their Mobile Depot Maintenance (MDM) team to repair the radomes in record time.”

Both the Eastern and Western Space Launch Ranges are the gateways to space for a host of space customers, including the U.S. Space Force, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S Department of Defense, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and other commercial programs. Maintaining operational availability for the equipment on the ranges is of particular concern, given the rapidly increasing pace of space launches.

“The 45th Space Launch Delta’s Civil Engineering (CE) Squadron was maintaining our towers that had critical PME in support of space launches and major corrosion issues,” Greenleaf said. “In partnership with SLD45/CE, we transferred 29 towers for Ogden support of corrosion control and maintenance to not only support our space launch mission but help CE with a limited budget to perform all the maintenance at Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center.”

The SSC/LTRS started researching a source to acquire better maintenance support. Initially, they looked for an independent contractor to do the work but received a quote of more than $1 million a year, Greenleaf said. The corrosion control team eventually discovered that the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill AFB could support the requirement and started the partnership with  Ogden in 2019 by attending the Communication Electronic Schedule Review (CESR) that ensured Ogden support for SSC’s tactical shelters, radomes, and towers (TSRT) equipment.

Ogden ALC also supports a host of Eastern Range shelters that protects equipment vital to the operation of the mission support equipment. Ogden also helped modernize and replace condemned shelters with new ones, saving the LTRS program $110,000.00. These new shelters provide support for critical doppler radar weather systems that support all launches on the ER.

The Ogden Air Logistics Complex provides worldwide engineering and logistics management for such aircraft as the F-35 Lightning II, F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10 Thunderbolt II, and Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile system. Ogden maintains radomes, shelters, and towers all over the world.

Because Ogden is funded through the U.S. Department of Defense, partnering with Ogden means SSC has saved $4.8 million in program funding, while at the same time having access to Ogden’s expertise. Last year, SSC/LTRS saw a $403,965.00 cost savings for corrosion control and maintenance on the 13 Western Range radomes alone, Greenleaf said.

Ogden also supports Emergency and Urgent Depot Level Maintenance for all tactical shelters, radomes, and towers (TSRT) equipment on both ranges, including recent work on the Advanced Tactical Optics Tracking System at Kennedy Space Center for severe corrosion. The Odgen team completed corrosion control in 7 days.

“Our tactical shelters, radomes, and towers are the front line of protection for our mission critical space systems in our launch range’s most corrosive environment,” said John Wilkinson, product support manager for the Launch and Test Range Systems. “It is critical that we keep these systems ‘Green and Go for Launch’ with our dramatically growing space launch pace. We now have an annual corrosion control program focusing on critical sustainment projects that will build the Spaceport of the Future next-generation technologies.” 

“Establishing our Ogden ALC corrosion control partnership is one of the smartest programs we have created,” Wilkinson said. “Without a doubt, the Ogden ALC Team will continue as one of our crucial space launch partners as we evolve our current ranges into our Nation’s Spaceports of the Future.”