SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida 280520 CREDIT SpaceX MOD.jpg
UK

RAF Fylingdales Tracks Historic SpaceX Launch

The station collected information to be shared with the Space Operations Centre at Headquarters Air Command.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida 280520 CREDIT SpaceX MOD.jpg

Royal Air Force personnel from RAF Fylingdales tracked the SpaceX Crew Dragon launch which took place on Saturday.

The launch involved the first manned space vehicle in nearly a decade to journey to the International Space Station (ISS).

It is a commercial enterprise between SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space exploration programme, and NASA.

The North Yorkshire RAF station was involved in detecting the launch, when the human-rated space capsule came within their field of view.

RAF Fylingdales personnel collected information to be shared with the Space Operations Centre at Headquarters Air Command and other sister sites across the United States.

NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley is seen waving on a monitor in firing room four during suit-up at the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building 270520 CREDIT NASA.jpg
NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley is seen waving on a monitor in the Launch Control Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on 27 March (Picture: NASA).

Flight Lieutenant Ryan Holden was responsible for tracking Crew Dragon some 20 minutes after lift-off.

"This is a momentous occasion in [the] modern space era, with the return of domestic manned launch for our US colleague and an exciting time for our crew," he said, prior to the launch.

RAF Fylingdales, in North Yorkshire, has been an iconic site for the past 57 years.

The Ballistic Missile Early Warning Site (BMEWS) can look 3,000 miles into space and detect even small objects.

The RADAR can track satellites, debris and space launches with a ballistic trajectory that could threaten the United Kingdom or the nation’s allies.

A five-person crew and their civilian counterparts routinely track the ISS and over 8,000 other objects on a daily basis.

Radome at RAF Fylingdales 230120 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
The RAF Fylingdales RADAR, pictured earlier in the year.

"The BMEWS RADAR is a highly regarded asset in the UK/US Space Surveillance Network providing 24/7 information on space object[s]," Wing Commander Al Walton, Station Commander at RAF Fylingdales, said.

"Whilst the launch is very much part of our normal daily operations, the added element of this high profile manned object will add some additional excitement and focus for [Flt Lt] Ryan [Holden]’s crew.

"It is fantastic and a proud moment for the whole force at RAF Fylingdales."

The flight to the International Space Station was originally postponed because of poor weather conditions at the space centre in Florida.

Cover image: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on 28 March (Picture: SpaceX/MOD).