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Alex Riter in Right Place for Launch Success




The final countdown of the SpaceX Sirius XM-8 launch in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 6, 2021, may have looked picture-perfect, but drama unfolded hours before the event that could have caused a delay.

While most of us were sleeping peacefully, a pair of intrepid Systems Administrators for TOSC at KSC were going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure a successful SpaceX launch of the Sirius XM-8 satellite. Among a multitude of other duties, Aerodyne’s Alex Riter and ERC’s David Reid manage IT systems for NASA’s Applied Metrology Unit (AMU). The AMU is a tri-agency cooperative effort with NASA and the 45th Weather Squadron which provides tools used in weather forecasting and analysis. The first Nunn-Perry awards were given in 1995 to recognize outstanding relationships within the DoD MPP Program. The award recognizes the contributions of former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia and the former Secretary of Defense, William Perry, who both played critical roles in the implementation of the DoD Mentor Protégé Program.

“One of our routine operations as Systems Admins is to take a quick double check on the systems about four hours ahead of launch and confirm no visible anomalies or detectable issues are noted to ensure the weather team has the latest info,” said Alex. “David was initially supporting and noticed all routine signs were good, but the displays were 10 hours behind expected.


“After running all the normal procedures to try and recover the display he called me to join in looking at the issue. In all honesty what we did was provided a quick work around to the root problem so they could continue with the information they needed. Monday morning, we were able to clean and reboot the system without further fanfare and return the displays to their normal operating states.”


David was quick to note that while this was not a normal anomaly, Alex’s impact is nothing new.


“Alex is playing the humble card as this is a daily occurrence for him saving the day in the TOSC Sys Admin group,” he said. “This happened on a late Saturday night, launch was scheduled for 12:26 a.m. Sunday.


“The Air Force Weather office was requesting status for their weather update; they had concerns the weather would be a deciding factor for a ‘Go For Launch.’


“I noticed that the displays were out of sync from what the AMU Models were feeding. A 24- hours out of sync. This was an anomaly I wasn’t experienced with enough to take care of, thus I called Alex to help. For the next two hours, I screen-shared with him while he frantically but calmly (yes, two contrasted terms) troubleshot why the displays in the Weather Office consoles were off.


“It was rewarding when thirty seconds into the launch I received a text from the Weather office saying THANK YOU for providing the data,” said David. “I slept well that Sunday morning!”


SpaceX
Pictured: (Top) SpaceX Sirius XM-8 launch takes off in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 6, 2021. 
(Bottom) Alex in his office next to the system used to troubleshoot the problem hours before launch.