By Steve Kotecki
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Airmen from the 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron learned the newest space maneuvering techniques in the Advanced Rendezvous Proximity Operations course in Colorado Springs, Colorado Feb. 26, 2019.
The course is offered though a contract partnership with Palski & Associates, a Colorado Springs systems engineering and technical assistance company.
The course changes and expands the approach to achieving space situational awareness among satellites and builds on the knowledge 3rd SES Airmen learn during initial technical training.
“It’s really the next step in the process of evolving and innovating space operations,” said Capt. Logan Burch, 3rd SES operations support flight commander.
“The idea of rendezvous and proximity operations has been around since the 60s, but the pockets of people who are experts in this field are limited and isolated. This course is looking to make this advanced knowledge the base for a space operator,” Burch said.
The four week course isn’t just a crash course in RPO.
“It’s really a deeper dive into the technical competencies that allow them to operate in space,” said Andrew Palski, course instructor.
“This new application of knowledge will make our satellites more agile, and gives them more options for the mission set,” Burch said. “We need to have the advanced knowledge so we can have the best operators.”
The students will use this knowledge immediately upon returning to operations to increase space situational awareness and will also help the entire wing when the students transition to other squadrons.
The course will wrap up its first iteration in two weeks, and includes students of varying levels of experience.
“Some people were new to this particular facet of space while others were a little more seasoned,” Burch said. “It was good to see different perspectives on the course to see the level of understanding.”
Some of the younger Airmen found this course to be especially useful in understating space operations.
“The course allowed me to gain a better understanding of what operations means, not just going in blind,” said Senior Airman Tarra Stott, 3rd SES student.
Part of the way the instructors at Palski are able to do this is through the use of scale satellite models.
“We have the tools and the toys to make it worthwhile,” Burch said.
Sitting in a room next to the class room is a 1/32nd scale model of a satellite on a gyroscopic stand in front of a green screen, similar to movie productions. This model sits in front of a camera on a track, which allows the instructors to accurately represent a satellite in space using imaging software to remove the green screen and add the background of space.
The model allows the instructors to accurately portray the conditions in space and make it look real to the students in a way that’s unique and different from using a simulator. It allows the instructors to simulate changing conditions in space much easier than writing a new program for a computer simulator
“What we’re able to do is look at realistic sensor effects, understand real world effects and simulate them so that they model a situation in space giving the students a better understanding of space concepts,” said Palski.
This course will be offered every four months with the goal of getting as many space operators trained e to meet the wing’s mission of evolving space and cyberspace warfighting superiority through integrated and innovative operations.