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Young officer spearheads prep of last DSP

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- When 1st Lt. Lindsey Mahoney was born in 1982, Defense Support Program Satellites had been launching for nearly a dozen years.
Tomorrow night between 8:39 and 10:42 p.m., the Clearwater, Fla. native, is scheduled to help put an exclamation point on the much-valued constellation with the 23rd -- and last -- launch of a DSP satellite. The first DSP satellite was launched Nov. 6, 1970, when a Titan IIIC rocket blasted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Over the course of 37 years, DSP satellites have helped to protect the United States and its allies by detecting missile launches, space launches and nuclear detonations.
In addition, DSP's effectiveness was proven during Operation Desert Storm, when DSP detected the launch of Iraqi-based Scud missiles and provided warnings to civilian populations and U.S. and coalition forces in Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Lieutenant Mahoney, a 2003 graduate of the University of South Florida with a degree in mechanical engineering, said she got her first taste of the DSP satellites at her first duty assignment at Schriever AFB, Colo.
"There, I was a DSP satellite engineer supporting the on-orbit constellation. The main part of our job was launch and early orbit operations. DSP F-22 launched when I arrived on station so I was involved with the early orbit checkout for that vehicle," she said.
Her duties now include being the Air Force contact for satellite operations at the Cape, which include receiving the satellite, system checkout, compatibility checks with the on-orbit operations squadron, fueling, booster integration, encapsulation, transport and hoist to launch pad, and any facility support needed by the program.
"Seeing both the on-orbit side as well as the pre-launch side has been a unique opportunity. Everything the ground team does for the satellite is so important to ensure the launch of a satellite that is in the most desirable configuration to ensure maximum return for on orbit operations and lifetime," she said.
And even though her duty title now reads "DSP field program manager," she makes it very clear she isn't -- and couldn't survive -- as a one-woman show.
"This current job is both a challenge and an opportunity. Everybody on the program has been with it for years so trying to provide any useful information that they don't already know is tricky.
"It is a huge opportunity for the same reason. This team has seen so many launch flows that they have seen just about every issue we run into. The amount of knowledge they possess is amazing," she said with emphasis.
"Both the ground and on-orbit contractors have taught me so much about the process from vehicle ground processing to final disposal operations. This has been a great program to work on and I will miss it and all of the people involved when it finally launches."
Her current commander is appreciative of the way she -- and other's -- work.
"Our spacecraft flight line is a great place to work, and Lindsey's in the spotlight for this critical national mission," said Lt. Col. John Wagner, commander, 45th Launch Support Squadron. "I'm fortunate to have bright, talented, and eager young officers such as Lieutenant Mahoney on my team who are dedicated to total mission success.
"Ten years from now, she can look back with pride at the work she's done here and how it enabled enhanced national security -- and likely saved the lives of future warriors in harm's way," he said