The "world's premier gateway to space" now has a new name.
The 45th Space Wing at Patrick Space Force Base and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida was redesignated as Space Launch Delta 45 on Tuesday (May 11). The changeover continues the reorganization of Air Force installations to the Space Force since the latter was founded in 2019.
"I am proud of the guardians and airmen of today's 45th Space Wing and the tens of thousands of your predecessors, who for decades have worked tirelessly to earn the wing's preferred motto as the 'world's premier gateway to space,'" Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting, commander of Space Operations Command, said in a video announcing the change. "Well, today we're marking yet another milestone in the storied history of this space and this mission set, and I think we'll be posturing the 45th to keep using that moniker for many decades to come."
Following military custom, the flags of the 45th Space Operations Group and 45th Mission Support Group were furled and encased as part of Tuesday's ceremony.
"I stand here on Launchpad 3, where the historic Bumper 8 mission launched on July 24, 1950," said Col. Mark Shoemaker, commander of the 45th Space Operations Group, who with superintendent CMSgt. Omar Basnight, stowed the group's flag at the site of the first rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. "While it may not look grandiose, this site marks the beginning of the 3,737 launch and landing operations our space professionals have supported over seven decades."
The 45th Space Wing was first activated on Nov. 12, 1991, succeeding the Eastern Space and Missile Center. The designation "45" as the wing's unit number was based on the lineage and honors of inactivated units with the same number at Patrick Space Force Base (then Air Force Base).
"The wing took its numerical designation from the 45th Bombardment Group, which protected our Atlantic coastlines during World War II," said James Draper, director of the Air Force Space & Missile Museum located at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. "During the 1991 ceremony, Lt. Gen. Thomas S. Mormon, Jr. compared the bombardment group to the space wing by pointing out both units were born of organizational change and both had to learn by doing."
In its almost 30 year history, the 45th Space Wing supported nearly 800 launches for the country's military and civil space programs. The wing's first launch was STS-44, which deployed a Defense Support Program satellite into orbit by NASA's space shuttle Atlantis. Other notable missions under the wing's watch included the numerous shuttle flights to build the International Space Station; the introduction of United Launch Alliance's Delta 4 and Atlas 5 rockets; interplanetary missions to Mercury, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Pluto; and the debut of the Air Force's X-37B orbital test vehicle.
As part of Tuesday's transition, the Space Force debuted the new emblem for Space Launch Delta 45.
"The midnight blue and silver gray of the delta represent the edge of Earth's atmosphere and outer space," Lt. Col. Shawn Bishop, chaplain for the 45th Space Wing, said, describing the arrow-shaped insignia. "In the lower center of the delta, a large globe represents the Earth, a smaller globe symbolizes the moon and other planets, and they also symbolize space travel."
The border between the sky and space and the globes were carried over from the previous wing's emblem to honor its history.
"The small delta's flight path is red to indicate the stresses of launch during space flight. The path is left to right to represent prograde departure routes of launch vehicles on the Eastern Range," said Bishop. "The number 45 proudly signifies the organization's number and the prominent gold border represents the foundation and structure the United States Space Force provides to Space Launch Delta 45."
The U.S. Space Force is also renaming the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as Space Launch Delta 30. Airmen and guardians assigned at both deltas will soon adopt another new emblem, replacing the badge for Space Operations Command with one for new Space Systems Command, under a realignment by the Space Force.
"What we do know is that no matter the patch you wear on your left shoulder, your outstanding mission accomplishment will endure," said Lt. Gen.Whiting. "With the 45th's rich gateway to space history as a backdrop, there will be many more firsts and many more examples of excellent mission accomplishment to advance the interests of the United States and our allies in the space domain."
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Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.