Air Force Space Command News Service

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 06, 1999

Rat patrol clears way for Atlas launch

By Ken Warren, 45th SW Public Affairs

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — A trio of tired and proud noncommissioned officers watched intently Nov. 21 as a Lockheed Martin
Astronautics Atlas IIA rocket successfully launched a Navy communications satellite into orbit from Space Launch Complex 36B at 11:09
p.m. EST. The three 3rd Space Launch Squadron facilities maintenance controllers had just seen the fruits of their weekend labors come to

Tech. Sgts. Randy Harmon, De Mobbs and Staff Sgt. Andy Wood had spent what must have seemed like endless hours over the past several days
overseeing the repair of the water deluge system at the complex. This system bathes the launch complex with thousands of gallons of water
immediately before each launch to protect the infrastructure from the effects of blast and heat. If this system isn’t on line, there can’t be a

Water was discovered bubbling up from the ground near the SLC 36 pump station Nov. 16. Technicians evaluated the situation and decided to
dig. They discovered that the buried line that provides water to the deluge system was leaking. “It was hard to tell exactly what the cause of
the leak was at that point. With the launch coming up, we had to take action,” said Wood.

That was the start of round-the-clock operations that included digging a hole, draining groundwater seepage, finding and evaluating the
problem — then fixing it. “That area is primarily swamp land, so there is a high water table. The biggest problem was keeping groundwater
out of the hole. We used four units that could pump 600 gallons of water per hour out of the hole,” said Wood. Once they cleared water from
the hole, they determined that the 30-inch pipe was broken in two places. They also decided the concrete block used to stabilize the pipe
needed to be upgraded. In the meantime, all the parts that could be needed to fix the pipe and pour the concrete block had been ordered and
were already in place.

Thanks to this pre-positioning strategy and lots of hard work, the joint Air Force/contractor team got the pipe fixed and concrete poured
Nov. 20. They estimated it would take about 18 hours for the concrete to set.

“The concrete block had to withstand 3,000 pounds of pressure per square inch and did so by about 9 a.m. Sunday,” said Wood. “We thought
the facility was ready to support, but a problem with a valve cropped up.”

The culprit was the valve that regulated the flow of water through the pipe. It had to be closed in order for the initial work to be done.
Somehow, it got broken in the process. But, in less than six hours, technicians identified and repaired the problem with the valve. “We
worked feverishly to get it done. The system was 100 percent ready to go by 4 p.m. that afternoon,” said Wood.

Approximately seven hours later, Wood, Harmon, Mobbs and the other members of the base support and launch teams savored the successful
launch. “Everything was capped off with a spectacular night launch. I can’t say enough about how Sverdrup and SGS worked with us to make
this happen,” Wood said. “There was a great sense of single-mindedness and cooperation to get the Atlas rocket and its Navy-payload up.”

That payload was the Navy’s 10th and final Ultra High Frequency Follow-On communications satellite. The satellite will be used to meet the
Navy’s communications requirements, which range from intelligence
dissemination to quality of life programming.

“We’re extremely proud to say we played a role in helping put that satellite in orbit. It feels great,” Wood added.