U.S. Northern Command, NORAD support shuttle launch

By NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs | June 30, 2006

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command provide support to NASA and the shuttle program’s return to flight with distinctly different but important missions.

NORAD — the bi-national command responsible for air defense of the North American air space — is ensuring airspace safety and security for the STS-121 launch and landing, providing irregular air patrols to enforce the FAA’s Temporary Flight Restriction zones over the space shuttle and along its flight path. NORAD support will consist of Air Force F-15 fighter planes and Coast Guard helicopters enforcing the TFR.

The FAA's Notice to Airmen can be viewed by linking to the FAA’s Web site at http://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_6_1433.html.

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 airspace remains NORAD's prime mission. The command retains a robust air defense posture to maintain air sovereignty over the continental United States, Alaska and Canada. Since Sept. 11, 2001, NORAD fighters have scrambled or diverted more than 2,000 times in response to air events, and NORAD aircraft have flown more than 42,000 missions in support of Operation Noble Eagle.

USNORTHCOM is the lead Department of Defense organization responsible for military incident support to the space shuttle. Support includes astronaut rescue and recovery and orbiter recovery. USNORTHCOM, established in 2002 and fully operational Sept. 11, 2003, coordinates U.S. military for DoD efforts to assist the space shuttle astronauts in the event of an emergency. USNORTHCOM will command and control DoD forces in the event of an emergency mainly through Joint Task Force-121, commanded by Navy Capt. Mike Tillotson.

JTF-121 is made up of operations, information command and control specialists, and support personnel who understand, focus and employ DoD’s unique capabilities. The JTF works with NASA, DoD installations, the military services and other government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard. More than 400 DoD personnel are ready to support the second Return to Flight mission, with 14 members of JTF-121 on location in Florida monitoring and providing command and control of DoD forces.