By Scott Prater
At first glance the Schriever Air Force Base Standard Space Trainer Integrated Training Center looks like a normal operational control center. Large, high-definition monitors dominate the walls, while multiple computer workstations provide telemetry and other important data to would-be users. The desks, chairs and even the carpet seem practical and functional. Fluorescent lighting and uncluttered workspaces present a minimalist style, free of chaos and distraction.
There’s more here than aesthetics, however.
Until now, the Air Force has trained its satellite operators using any number of different systems. These historical training systems varied not only in their look and feel, but in their structure. Different hardware, operating systems and proprietary software left future operators and trainers alike with no clear training standard. The often stove-piped systems left little room for versatility and were often provided as a training afterthought. In some cases, Air Education and Training Command and Air Force Space Command even used different training systems for the same space system.
“This represents a quantum leap forward,” 50th Space Wing Vice Commander Col. Michael Mason said during the SST ribbon cutting ceremony here Feb. 4. “It allows us to have a very versatile system, a system where one day we can train operators on the Global Positioning System, and the next day train operators on the Wideband Global SATCOM system. The flexibility and versatility of this system is absolutely amazing.”
The new training system, and center, represents the culmination of several years worth of thought, design and effort. Initiated by the Air Force Research Lab and AETC in 2006 and championed by then Brig. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, vice commander, Space and Missile Systems Center, the project was envisioned as a cost effective, quality training system built on a common training architecture. System specific applications are developed to interface with the SST architecture. During 2009, Gen. Robert C. Kehler, then commander AFSPC, directed that all future space systems use the SST architecture and that current systems consider transition to SST during planned upgrades and modifications.
Lt. Col. Theresa Malasavage, commander, 50th Operation Support Squadron, pointed out that the new trainer presents some distinct advantages for operators and instructors. The SST has the capability to provide both crew and positional training, but more importantly is a dedicated trainer, built for instruction. As such, SST offers enhanced instructor tools and capabilities like fast forward, rewind, bookmark and replay mode. Instructors also can run multiple independent scenarios simultaneously.
“This is the first SST training center in Air Force Space Command,” Colonel Malasavage said. “We appreciate the work and support of AFSPC, SMC, Sonalysts, Inc., the 50th Civil Engineer Squadron, 50th Space Communication Squadron and everyone involved to make this a reality. Today, the 50 SW has the first mission specific application for SST, the Defense Satellite Communications System.”
Instructors have already begun training satellite vehicle operators and satellite system operators on DSCS via the SST. Next year the training center will receive the WGS application to complete the 3 SOPS crew and during the next five years will receive the SST applications for Space Based Space Surveillance System, Multi-Mission Space Operations Center, GPS, Milstar and the Advanced Extremely High Frequency system.
“The SST is the right 21st Century solution to our training needs,” said Col. John Shaw, 50th Operations Group commander. “It provides a common simulator framework for all of our instructors to use that is more flexible, versatile and efficient.”
Following the ribbon cutting ceremony, 1st Lieutenant Floyd Kerr led 50th OSS instructors through demonstrations of the new training system throughout the multi-suite training center. Airman 1st Class Brant Finstad demonstrated crew interoperability using a satellite vehicle operator, a space system operator and an instructor. In a second suite, Senior Airman Jeffrey Acosta-Cousar showed how an instructor can use the SST to monitor the progress of six DSCS students simultaneously. Airman 1st Class Adam Fetty then showed additional capabilities, such as the Mission Planning System, in a final demonstration in suite three.
With SST clearly showing superior performance, versatility and capability, and new SST applications coming on board soon, it’s clear that SST is the right training tool for space operations, both now and in the future.