Home >> News: October 17th, 2015 >> Story
Satnews Daily
October 17th, 2015

Space + Missile Systems Center's New Directorate Brings Together Launch Systems Directorate + Rocket Systems Launch Program

[Satnews] The Space and Missile Systems Center's newest directorate, the Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate (SMC/LE), stood up at a ceremony held at Los Angeles Air Force Base on October 14. Under the leadership of Dr. Claire Leon, the new directorate brings together the Launch Systems Directorate and the Rocket Systems Launch Program (which formerly fell under SMC's Advance Systems and Development Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.).

Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, Space and Missile Systems Center commander and Air Force Program Executive Officer for Space and Dr. Claire Leon, the first director of the Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate unveil the new emblem during a brief stand up ceremony, October 14. The Latin phrase, "Per Audacia Ad Astra" translates to "Through boldness to the stars" — the new motto of the Launch Enterprise Directorate. (U.S. Air Force photo/Van De Ha)

"Until today, the Air Force has procured and executed space launch capabilities through two separate organizations within SMC - RSLP and SMC/LR.  This created the potential for ambiguity among our stakeholders and a disconnect in our acquisition strategy," said Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, Air Force Program Executive Officer for Space and SMC commander.  "Today, we unify Air Force space launch capabilities under one directorate to synchronize our acquisition activities."

"Space launch is not a service for which one must come up with a value proposition, but rather it is a must-have utility in our national policy of assured access to space," Greaves said.  "As the space environment continues to evolve with the addition of EELV new entrants, we must build upon that foundation to drive and provide innovative, resilient, and affordable launch solutions for the Air Force and the nation."

The Launch Systems Directorate's mission was to acquire, operate and sustain affordable expendable launch and range capability primarily through the Delta II and the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.  Until the recent certification of the SpaceX Falcon 9, the EELV program consisted of United Launch Alliance's Delta IV and Atlas V rockets.  The Rocket Systems Launch Program mission was to execute several small to medium launches, deliver realistic targets for Missile Defense Agency's test program, and provide oversight of available Peacekeeper rocket motors.  The LE directorate will bring the best of these two worlds together.

The new directorate's mission is to be the "guardian of assured access: launching when and where the nation needs it."  LE's vision statement is to be the most respected and innovative spacelift team, delivering mission success while enabling a robust U.S. launch industry.

"This realignment will not only advance our capability development, but will feed into the next generation of SMC's space systems and into architectural baselines for decades to come," Greaves said.

At the ceremony the general tasked Dr. Leon to remain laser-focused in SMC's goal to provide the nation with persistent global access to space.

During the ceremony, the general called for the publishing of orders. Headquarters Air Force Space Command special order dated Sept. 11 states that the Launch Systems Directorate and the Rocket Systems Launch Program are hereby realigned to form the Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate, assigned to the Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. After the orders were read, Dr. Leon officially accepted the leadership of the Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate.

"This is an exciting and dynamic time in the launch industry with robust design efforts and reintroducing competition for launch," said Dr. Leon. 

Her priorities for the new directorate are to continue our focus on mission success, provide continuing assured access to space, transition from the use of RD-180 engines and reintroduce new launch competition.

At the ceremony, the new directorate's shield was unveiled.  The design features a dragon, which is the Launch Directorate's mascot. The bullseye symbolizes delivering the spacecraft into the perfect orbit.  The four stars symbolize the four types of rocket configurations (heavy, medium, light and extra light). One of the stars resembles one of the stars in the California state flag symbolizing where SMC is located. Another star is the Zia Sun symbol found on the New Mexico state flag and the AD Directorate logo. Kirtland Air Force Base is located in Albuquerque, N.M. The single deltoid symbol symbolizes the launch vehicle.  The motto" Per Audacia Ad Astra" means "Through Boldness to the Stars."