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AFIT EWI fellow assists in planetary defense mission

Posted Thursday, January 06, 2022

 

 


A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket takes off from Vandenberg Space Force Base November 23, 2021.  On board the rocket is NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test, the world’s first planetary defense test.  Air Force Institute of Technology Education with Industry Fellow assigned to SpaceX, Capt. Erin Recanzone led SpaceX communication efforts for the launch. (Courtesy photo from SpaceX / Tom Cross)

 


By: Capt Erin Recanzone, AFIT Education with Industry Fellow at SpaceX


“The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space program,” said Larry Niven, science fiction writer.

Fortunately, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has developed a Double Asteroid Redirection Test, humanity’s first planetary defense test, in an effort to prevent humans from meeting the same untimely fate that befell the dinosaurs.

SpaceX successfully launched DART on a Falcon 9 rocket November 23 from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif.

As part of her responsibilities as an Air Force Institute of Technology Education with Industry Fellow assigned to SpaceX, Capt. Erin Recanzone led SpaceX communication efforts for the DART launch. Activities to prepare for the launch included weekly media coordination meetings, collecting and coordinating documentation requests, drafting both internal and external communication products, developing a timeline of media activities, and preparing a briefing book for the subject matter expert representing SpaceX at a pre-launch briefing.

In the days leading up to launch, Recanzone traveled to Vandenberg SFB where she escorted NASA and John’s Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory photographers for remote camera placement, worked with the Space Launch Delta 30 Public Affairs team to host media members, and assisted in preparing the SpaceX SME for the NASA TV live pre-launch briefing.

“This opportunity has highlighted the layers of coordination that are required for mission success,” said Recanzone. “NASA had ownership of the mission, APL was responsible for the spacecraft, Vandenberg Space Force Base had jurisdiction over the launch site, and SpaceX was the launch provider. Every organization had their own communication objectives, but we were all dependent on each other to meet those objectives.”

The spacecraft will spend the next 10 months sailing through space using its autonomous navigation system until it intentionally collides with an asteroid. The data collected from the collision will give NASA scientists information that could be used in the future to better prepare if an asteroid is detected that poses a potential threat to the Earth.

“DART is turning science fiction into science fact and is a testament to NASA’s proactivity and innovation for the benefit of all,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “In addition to all the ways NASA studies our universe and our home planet, we’re also working to protect that home, and this test will help prove out one viable way to protect our planet from a hazardous asteroid should one ever be discovered that is headed toward Earth.” 

The trip also afforded Recanzone the opportunity to apply strategic planning techniques to develop communication products. In order to service the requests from the various agencies involved in this launch, Recanzone had to work with mission management to identify times that would allow opportunities to document without interfering with ongoing operations. She also had to ensure anything being released had been properly reviewed.

The EWI Program is a highly selective, competitive, career development program designed to improve the technical, professional, and management competencies of participating students by partnering with top tier public and private sector companies.

During the ten-month tour, students embed with an industry team to meet their specific career desired learning objectives. Through hands on exposure to industry best practices, students develop the necessary competencies, skills, knowledge, and abilities to build, sustain and retain a mission-ready workforce, as well as learn how to better partner with industry in the future.

The Program is sponsored by SAF/AQ and managed by the AFIT with the ultimate goal to develop Air Force leaders with greater business acumen and empathy with the expertise to implement innovative practices when they return to the Air Force. Upon completion, graduates are assigned to Air Force duty consistent with their EWI experience. For more information about the program, visit www.afit.edu/EWI

 

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