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Helms Takes Command of 45th Space Wing and Rocket Range
Official portrait of U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Susan Helms. Former astronaut and current U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Susan Helms continued exploring new territory as she recently assumed the role of commander of the 45th Space Wing and director of the Eastern Range at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida.

Image to right: Susan Helms is a veteran of five spaceflights, including a stint aboard the International Space Station. Credit: U.S. Air Force
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She officially acquired the new role on June 21 during a formal change-of-command ceremony at the base, making her the wing's first female commander. Helms will be responsible for the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's annual Delta and Atlas evolved expendable launch vehicle launches, which average 20 each year. She will also assist with space shuttle launches and provide final approval for all launches on the Eastern Range.

Helms was selected by NASA in 1990. By the end of her 12-year NASA career, she had lived in space for a total of 211 days. As an astronaut, she flew on shuttle missions STS-54 (1993), STS-64 (1994), STS-78 (1996), STS-101 (2000) and STS-102 (2001), in which she arrived at the International Space Station as a member of the Expedition 2 crew. She has logged 5,064 hours in space, including a world-record-setting spacewalk of 8 hours and 56 minutes.

During STS-54, Helms supported the deployment of the NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-F). She served as flight engineer for orbiter operations and was the primary remote manipulator system operator during the STS-64 mission. She was payload commander and flight engineer during STS-78, the first mission to combine a full microgravity studies agenda and a comprehensive life science investigation. Helms performed critical functional cargo block repairs and was responsible for the onboard computer network during the STS-101 mission. As an Expedition 2 crew member, she tested the Canadian-built space station robotic arm, and performed maintenance and experiments on the station.

She returned to the U.S. Air Force in 2002. Most recently, Helms served as deputy director of operations at the headquarters of the Air Education and Training Command at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. Prior to that, she was vice commander of the 45th Space Wing from June 2004 to February 2005.

Helms was born in Charlotte, N.C., but considers Portland, Ore., her hometown. Her predecessor, Brig. Gen. Mark Owen, now works for the Pentagon.

Jennifer Wolfinger
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center