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Wing supports successful night shuttle launch

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- Night became day in the skies over Central Florida when Space Shuttle Discovery launched on a mission to the International Space Station on Dec. 9 at 8:47 p.m. The 45th Space Wing Sharks supported NASA on this -- the shuttle's first night launch in four years.

Several units across the 45th SW played vital roles including helping validate the pad after the shuttle rolled out, final ordnance installation, providing weather forecasts, organizing and training DoD contingency response forces and media relations. In addition, the wing provided Eastern Range support with a vast network of radar, telemetry, meteorological, optical and communications instrumentation that helped facilitate a safe, picture-perfect launch.

"This night-time launch was a spectacular way to wrap up the 2006 space launch season. Congratulations to the entire NASA, DoD and government contractor launch team on a great start to this mission. We're proud of our contributions to assuring the safe and successful launch of Space Shuttle Discovery," said Col. Tom Bouthiller, 45th SW vice commander.

Another of the ways the 45th SW supported this mission was monitoring restricted airspace near Kennedy Space Center and helping keep it clear during the launch window. Staff Sgt. Adam Greer, of the wing's 1st Range Operations Squadron, served as an aerospace control officer. He closely monitored a radar scope and had the capability to facilitate contacting pilots who strayed into the restricted airspace, if necessary, during the mission.

Sergeant Greer remembers watching space shuttle launches as a kid and thinking: "Wow!" He said it's surreal that he's part of the launch team now. "The fact that I played a role in space exploration by helping launch a mission to the International Space Station is something that will stay with me forever," he said.

STS-116 is the 33rd flight for Discovery and the 117th space shuttle flight. During the planned 12-day mission, the crew will continue construction on the International Space Station and rewire the orbiting laboratory. Astronauts Bob Curbeam and Christer Fuglesang installed a segment to the ISS' integrated truss structure during Tuesday's spacewalk. Discovery is slated to land at KSC Dec. 21.