The final countdown

Posted by
On December 1, 2008

It’s T-minus zero, and as the main engine ignites, Lt. Col. Scott Peel’s mind begins to race. As commander of the range operations team at Vandenberg Air Force Base, he knows that now there’s no turning back.

The 5,000-pound military satellite, attached to a Delta II-7920 rocket sitting on top of thousands of pounds of highly combustible fuels, leaves the Earth for its journey into space. And now all he can do is watch and wait for the satellite to separate from its booster vehicle.

The Dec. 14, 2006, launch of USA 193 was Peel’s fourth. His three previous launches – an intercontinental ballistic missile test, a missile defense interceptor test and another satellite -had all been successful. But that didn’t lessen the anticipation of this mission. “Launching extremely expensive, unique or one-of-a-kind satellites is far from routine,” says Peel, EMgt’89. “It is the most stressful thing I’ve ever helped do, but it is also exhilarating and rewarding.”

Only after all stages have fired is the immense pressure, built by each successive “go” call, replaced by euphoria for the range team, says Peel.
“The ability to declare ‘mission success’ can take weeks or months depending upon the type of mission,” Peel explains.

“Only after all stages have fired is the immense pressure, built by each successive “go” call, replaced by euphoria for the range team.”

Fourteen months later, in a strange twist of fate, another Missouri S&T grad, Andrew Jackson, ECE’03, would start a launch sequence that would bring down the malfunctioning satellite.

“I’m not surprised that two Rolla alumni were working high-risk, technically demanding operations,” Peel says. “The U.S. military is looking for all different types of people with different educational backgrounds, but because the services employ many cutting-edge technologies, the appeal for graduates from schools such as Rolla is high.”

Peel is stationed at Naval War College in Newport, R.I., where he is pursuing his third master’s degree, this one in national security.

mm
Posted by

On December 1, 2008. Posted in Features, Winter 2008

Recent Posts

Celebrating 150 years

Celebrating 150 years

Please join us as we honor the university’s past, celebrate its present and envision its future, fr[...]
Leading into the future

Leading into the future

Mohammad Dehghani: S&T’s ninth chancellor Mohammad Dehghani was perplexed. A project engi[...]
Learning by leading

Learning by leading

Missouri S&T students leave the university with more than a degree. They gain invaluable experi[...]
"Forged in Gold: Missouri S&T’s First 150 Years"

"Forged in Gold: Missouri S&T’s First 150 Years"

In the 1870s, Rolla seemed an unlikely location for a new college. There were only about 1,400 resi[...]
By the numbers: Fall/Winter 2019

By the numbers: Fall/Winter 2019

Missouri S&T’s rank among Missouri colleges for alumni salary potential, according to Pays[...]