NORAD and USNORTHCOM support Space Shuttle launch

By NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs


PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) will again provide distinctly different but important support to NASA and the upcoming shuttle program’s mission.

NORAD, the bi-national command responsible for aerospace warning and aerospace control of Canada and the United States, is ensuring airspace safety and security for the STS-126 launch and landing.  Using fighter planes and U.S. Coast Guard helicopters, NORAD will provide air patrols to enforce the FAA’s Temporary Flight Restriction zones over the space shuttle and along its flight path.

The FAA flight restriction (depicted in illustration attached to this release), and the associated Notice to Airmen can be viewed in its entirety by linking to the FAA’s Web site at

NORAD is also prepared to respond to any shuttle emergency by securing the airspace over necessary Launch Abort Sites should emergency landing be required.

The safety and security of North American aerospace remains NORAD's prime mission.  The command retains a robust air defense posture to maintain air sovereignty over the continental U.S., Alaska and Canada.  Since Sept. 11, 2001, NORAD fighters have scrambled or diverted more than 2,100 times in response to air events, and NORAD aircraft have flown more than 50,000 sorties (refueling, Airborne Warning and Control System, etc.) in support of Operation Noble Eagle.

USNORTHCOM is the lead U.S. Department of Defense organization responsible for military incident support to the space shuttle.  Support includes astronaut search and rescue as well as orbiter salvage and recovery.  USNORTHCOM, established in 2002, coordinates U.S. military efforts to assist the space shuttle astronauts in the event of an emergency.  USNORTHCOM will assume command and control of DOD forces in the event of an emergency mainly through Air Forces Northern (AFNORTH), which forms the core of Joint Task Force -126, commanded by U. S. Air Force Col. Randy Spear.

AFNORTH is made up of operations, information command and control specialists, and support personnel who understand, focus and employ DOD’s unique capabilities. AFNORTH works with NASA, DOD installations, the U.S. military services and other U.S. government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard to accomplish the mission.  More than 400 DOD personnel are ready to support the mission, with 16 members of AFNORTH on location in Florida monitoring and providing command and control of DOD forces.  A complete list of DOD forces tasked to AFNORTH can be obtained from AFNORTH’s Public Affairs personnel, who are located at the NASA Media Services Center and the Morrell Operations Center for the launch.

The mission of USNORTHCOM is homeland defense and civil support. The command conducts operations to deter, prevent, defeat and mitigate threats and aggression aimed at the United States, its territories and interests within the assigned area of responsibility.  Also, as directed by the President or Secretary of Defense, USNORTHCOM provides military assistance to civil authorities including consequence management operations.

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