Air Force officer’s career is out of this world

  • Published
  • By Van De Ha
  • Space and Missile Systems Center Public Affairs

Lighting up the pre-dawn skies over Florida’s Space Coast, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket, carrying the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF)-5 satellite for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, lifted off from Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Aug. 8.

Numerous teams and partnerships throughout the space industry worked together to bring about the successful launch of AEHF-5. There were many individuals working behind the scenes who made critical contributions to this mission. One such individual is Air Force Capt. Jeric F. Mibale from the Space and Missile System Center’s Launch Enterprise, who carried out the most satisfying space launch of his career.

As an Atlas V propulsion engineer, Mibale determines flightworthiness of the engines and motors on the Atlas V rocket. During the launch mission, he also sits on-console and provides risk assessments to his leadership for any technical anomalies that happen during the launch countdown.

To determine flightworthiness, Mibale and other Atlas V responsible engineers led teams of other Air Force, Federally Funded Research and Development Center, and contractor members on hardware pedigrees. During the pedigree review, Mibale and the team reviews the documentation for the as-built configuration of their assigned hardware and compare it to the as-designed configuration or “engineering drawings,” placing extra emphasis on understanding differences between the two configurations.

Since the Atlas V rocket has two engines and motors that undergo hot fire test or “acceptance testing” prior to launch, his team gets to review the test data and compare it against historic data to get a better understanding of how the components will perform in flight. His team often briefs senior leadership on first flight items or other significant crossovers to the rocket made by their hardware that assist them in their own flightworthiness determination.

“Being on-console during launch is a great experience. I think it’s one of the most fun and rewarding jobs a company grade office can have. It is a lot of work though,” said Mibale.

“The certification process requires the responsible engineers to understand many aspects of our hardware to include program history, operation, system impacts to the overall launch vehicle, and how to navigate on-console anomalies,” Mibale explained. “There’s also a ton of heritage in launching rockets that goes back to the Cold War so being at the launch sites and being around the rocket during the last hardware checkouts is an experience I will never forget.” 

The Air Force considers its Mission Assurance process to be a national asset. Combining years of experience and insight working in SMC’s Advanced Systems and Development Directorate as a program integrator for Enterprise Ground Services and as an Atlas V propulsion engineer in Launch Enterprise, Mibale and his team of other government, FFRDC and contractors have contributed to the Atlas V’s record of 100 percent mission success, ultimately providing critically needed capabilities to the warfighter and our Nation.

“I am so proud to be part of the mission assurance team knowing we are vital to making mission success happen,” said Mibale. “In fact, I’ve heard my senior leaders state that our mission assurance process is a national asset and now I can see why.”

Born in Washington, D.C., Mibale grew up in Maryland, outside of Andrews Air Force Base, hearing planes fly daily and followed his uncles’ footsteps by serving in the U.S. military.

“I knew that by joining the Air Force, I would be able to work on new and exciting programs in the air and space industry. I was commissioned in 2015 through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Maryland in College Park,” said Mibale. “SMC is my first assignment and in the near future, my next assignment will be with the 1st Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. I look forward to working in that unit and learning all there is to know about their mission.”

As the responsible engineer providing mission assurance for a foreign-produced liquid rocket engine SMC uses, Mibale has had the opportunity to travel many countries around the world while contributing greatly to our Nation’s space superiority.